By almost any dictionary definition, US President Donald Trump is an accused rapist. However, no litigation has taken place with a conviction of sexual assault or rape.

If one was to write in a major publication that Trump is a rapist, given the number of accusers of sexual assault, as well as his own spoken words condoning sexual assault, would such a publication be potentially vulnerable to a libel lawsuit because Trump has not been convicted of rape?

I'm trying to weigh this while considering that President Trump controls the Department of Justice, which I believe muddies the waters between explicit conviction and the overwhelming evidence that he has raped women.

  • The what "overwhelming evidence" are you speaking of? I'm aware of some inconclusive evidence. – phoog May 28 '17 at 4:59
  • Based on listening to Leonard French's videos, calling someone a "rapist" who has not be convicted would be libel. You could say "accused rapist" or "alleged rapist" (I think) but stating it as a fact would be dangerously close to saying something that was provably false. – markspace May 28 '17 at 7:19
  • Expanding on @markspace 's comment; this is why reputable news media refer to such things so obliquely until there is an actual conviction. They'll start with "Person A claims Person B is a rapist" (reporting on the claim isn't making the claim, merely publicising it), then use terms like "alleged" and "accused", then if someone has been to trial and found guilty, they quantify that with "convicted". Whether they really need to protect themselves from a conflict between press freedoms and libel laws is unclear, but they do tend to hedge their bets. – GeoffAtkins May 28 '17 at 11:32
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    Its less punchy, but you could say "self-confessed sex criminal", since he did talk about "grabbing women by the p***y". Sexual assault is not rape, but it still a serious criminal offense. – Paul Johnson May 28 '17 at 17:05
  • Saying someone is a "rapist" does not mean that someone is a "convicted rapist". The relevant legal standard under U.S. law is having a sincere factual basis to believe that the claim is true, which would probably be present from his public statements and statements made by others accusing him of this crime. Leonard French is simply wrong about the law to the extent he says otherwise. – ohwilleke May 29 '17 at 23:14

It probably would not be, since Trump is a public figure. The ostensibly libeling party would have to act with "actual malice", with "knowledge that the information was false" or that it was published "with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.

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