Former President Trump has sued CNN in federal court in Florida for defamation.
In the lawsuit filed Monday, Trump’s attorneys allege that CNN “has sought to use its massive influence — purportedly as a ‘trusted’ news source — to defame the plaintiff in the minds of its viewers and readers for the purpose of defeating him politically, culminating in the CNN claim credit for ‘[getting] Trump out of the 2020 presidential race.”
According to the lawsuit, the former president is demanding $475 million in damages.
Trump announced his intention to sue the network earlier this summer, saying in a statement that he would “also initiate actions against other media outlets that have defamed me and defrauded the public regarding the overwhelming evidence of fraud throughout the 2020 election.”
The former president’s lawyers allege in the suit that CNN “conducted a smear campaign to slander the plaintiff with a barrage of negative associations and innuendos, broadcasting comments that he is like a cult leader, a Russian lackey, a dog whistler for white supremacists, and racist.”
It also cited CNN anchors, personalities and pundits who used the term “Big Lie” to refer to Trump’s repeated false statements about the 2020 election and voter fraud as evidence that the outlet was trying to link him to Adolf Hitler.
To prove defamation, public officials and other public figures must prove that journalists acted with actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth in their reporting, a high legal bar to remove the First Amendment protections afforded to the free press under the constitution. The New York Times, for example, has not lost a libel case in more than 50 years.
CNN is a frequent foil of Trump, his supporters and allies, as well as conservatives more generally.
In 2020, the network settled a $275 million lawsuit brought by a Kentucky high school student who was at the center of a viral video controversy and became a lightning rod for critics of the mainstream media.
Trump’s campaign also sued the New York Times in 2019 for an op-ed that suggested a “college” with Russian officials.
The latest lawsuit by the former president comes amid major changes at CNN, which was recently sold to media conglomerate Discovery.
CNN’s new president, Chris Licht, has made several changes to the network’s programming and staff, scrapping its Sunday show focused on media affairs and telling network staff he wants to see a renewed commitment to journalism over knowledge and speculation.
Licht reportedly told network anchors at a meeting earlier this year to rein in the use of the term “the big lie” when referring to Trump’s election claims, worrying that it was too partisan.
The network declined to comment on Trump’s lawsuit Monday.
Updated at 5:30 p.m