Litigation Journal

A Life of Letters

The deputy general counsel for the New York Times explains why lawyering for the paper is not for the shy.

David E. McCraw

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My brief brush with Internet fame—and brief is exactly what you want when it comes to Internet fame—began with a letter I wrote one Thursday morning in October as the newsroom lawyer for the New York Times. The Times had just published a story detailing the accounts of two women who claimed that Donald Trump had groped them years earlier. I had reviewed a draft of the article. I found it well reported, a story that deserved to be told in the midst of a heated and often ugly presidential campaign.

Safe to say, Mr. Trump and his lawyers failed to share my enthusiasm for the piece. A few hours after the story went online, they publicly released a letter demanding a retraction and threatening to sue the Times for libel.

Lawyering for the Times is not for the shy. As soon as the Trump letter went out, the Internet began churning, with news stories and tweets and random postings, all speculating on how we would respond, what we would say, what the odds were of a lawsuit, and whether it would be the libel suit to end all libel suits.

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