The Daily Mail and MailOnline is settling a defamation case filed by first lady Melania Trump for just under $3m, following the paper’s publication of an article last year that suggested she once worked as an escort.
The two cases against Mail in the UK and the US have been settled for less than $3m dollars including legal costs and damages, according to a source close to the matters.
That equates to just 1% of the $300m in damages Trump had originally been seeking. It's a small fee when compared to other recent celebrity lawsuits, such as Hulk Hogan's $31m settlement against now-defunct Gawker for publishing a video that showed the former wrestler having sex with a friend's wife.
The Daily Mail publisher was unable to find evidence to support the allegations it made, when it claimed that Trump’s modeling agency in New York, run by Paolo Zampolli, “operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients”.
The article, published in August 2016 in the midst of the presidential race, discussed whether allegations being made about Melania Trump could negatively affect her husband Donald Trump's presidential bid.
The article also claimed that Mr and Mrs Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and "staged" their actual meeting as a "ruse”.
The article was published in the Daily Mail newspaper under the title: 'Racy photos, and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump’.
It also appeared on MailOnline both in the UK and in the US under the headline: 'Naked photoshoots, and troubling questions about visas that won't go away: The VERY racy past of Donald Trump's Slovenian wife'.
The publisher claimed the article did not intend to state or suggest that these allegations are true, nor did it intend to state or suggest that Trump ever worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business’.
Trump filed a lawsuit against the publisher in September 2016, when both herself and Paulo Zampolli denied the allegations. The publisher updated the article to include Trump and Zampolli’s statements, as well as a statement that admitted “there was no support for the allegations”.
Trump re-filed the lawsuit in February this year after amending the controversial language used in the initial case that said she missed a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to profit from her brand. Observers criticised the statement, that appeared to suggest she intended to gain financially from being first lady.
Now the publisher, which owns the biggest English-language news site in the world, is being forced to print a retraction and apology for the publication of the article online and in print.
“We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her. To settle Mrs Trump's two lawsuits against us, we have agreed to pay her damages and costs,” the publisher wrote in a statement.
The publisher’s decision to publish an article without substantial evidence is a controversial move when the spread of fake news is at crisis point. It follows Buzzfeed’s similar decision to publish a dossier alleging Russia had compromising information on President Trump, despite admitting that the allegations were unverified, and the report contained errors.