The owners of Truth Social are suing the Washington Post Company for $3.78 billion, alleging defamation and conspiracy to defame. They filed the action on May 20, one week following an article in the Post alleging money laundering, failures of required disbursement disclosures, and alleged ties to a Russian banker and a “porn-friendly” bank in the Caribbean.
Truth Social and two hit pieces
Trump Media Technology Group (TMTG), which owns Truth Social, laid out their story in the nineteen-page complaint. The story begins with one Will Wilkerson, a “former employee of TMTG” whom the company “terminated for cause.” Other outlets describe Wilkerson as former Senior Vice-President in Charge of Operations of TMTG, and as a “whistleblower.” He has alleged securities fraud and other wrongdoing against Truth Social since at least October 15, 2022. The Post published this article on that date. A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against Truth Social did exist at the time. The specific “cause” for the firing of Wilkerson was his disclosure of that complaint, on October 6, 2022, to The Miami Herald, in violation of a non-disclosure agreement.
That government case might no longer exist. But according to the complaint, Wilkerson “began to concoct and publicly shop false stories about TMTG to numerous media outlets.”
WaPo “bit” again in May, with this article describing the involvement of an entity called ES Family Trust, having links to “a porn-friendly bank on a Caribbean island,” with the still-ongoing merger talks between TMTG and Digital World Acquisitions Company (DWAC). DWAC is a Special Purpose Acquisitions Company (SPAC), one of several that help launch startups and take them public. Their source is The Guardian, which published this story on March 15.
Further publication – key source of injury
The complaint offers details on the WaPo story, which mentions an $8 million loan and a $240,000 finder’s fee. WaPo alleges that TMTG failed to inform the SEC of either transaction, nor about some conflicts of interest involving DWAC.
WaPo, after publishing its article, tweeted it out:
The Twitter community greeted the tweet with a mixed reaction, but the complaint laid emphasis on this tweet:
Among the scoffers was this user who pointed this out about Nancy Pelosi’s insider trades.
This activity prompted four Representatives, two Repubican and two Democrat, to propose to forbid Members of Congress to trade stocks. Remarkably, they included Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Nevertheless, Author Drew Harwell tweeted the article out on his own account:
So did his editor, Mark Seibel:
Coauthors Matt Bernardini and Matei Rosca did the same:
WaPo Business Editor Lori Montgomery retweeted Drew Harwell’s tweet, and also added one of her own:
See also these two other tweets that the complaint mentioned:
The Truth Social complaint sites these examples of reader reaction to establish the damage to Truth Social’s reputation:
They also cited this example of reader comments.
The WaPo article made one allegation about an alleged investor who lost his “life savings” in the Truth Social venture. Drew Harwell virtually laughed at him:
The complaint offers five more tweets “republishing” the story, from accounts they call “prominent anti-TMTG users.”
Truth social responds: all lies
Truth Social insists that the statements Harwell, Bernardini, and Rosca made in the article are “materially false.” They admit the $8 million loan but not the finder’s fee. As Florida Statutes require, the company demanded a retraction – and didn’t get one.
Truth Social is seeking $2.78 billion in compensatory damages and $1 billion in punitive damages. To substantiate that demand, they list the damages they have suffered in Paragraph 27 of the complaint:
As a direct result of WaPo’s defamation, TMTG suffered damages, including, but not limited to,
- Loss and injury to its business, brand and good will,
- Lost future earning capacity,
- Damage and injury to reputation (past and future),
- Costs, and
- Other out-of-pocket expenses,
in the sum of $2,780,000,000.00 or such greater amount as is determined by a jury.
Truth Social also alleges conspiracy to defame, said conspiracy including WaPo, “outside third parties,” Will Wilkerson, and his attorneys.
Trump and his lawsuit experience
Donald Trump himself is no stranger to legal controversy. Last year he sued CNN after they compared him to Adolf Hitler and wouldn’t take that back. That last is ironic, because Trump agreed to appear on CNN for a Town Hall meeting in New Hampshire. ( He also made a fool of CNN’s chosen anchor person. So if CNN thought they could make the lawsuit go away, they paid too high a price for that. And that’s even assuming they could make that lawsuit go away.)
He also has a lawsuit pending against The New York Times, arising out of a 2018 article that misrepresented his tax and other financial status.
The Washington Post has no comment on the case of TMTG v. WP Company LLC. That case is pending in the Twelfth (Florida) Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota County, where Truth Social has its headquarters.
In contrast to WaPo, the New York Post covered the Guardian story on the day of publication. And they’ve never touched the story since, as a search on “ES Family Trust” on their site proves. They also expressed doubt that The Guardian had actually shown anything illegal.
As Trump said when he sued CNN, that other organ was only his first target. The Washington Post laid themselves wide-open on this one. Unlike the New York Post, The Washington Post assumed – even asserted – guilt. Beyond a certain point, “he’s a public figure” is no longer a defense against a defamation charge.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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