Parents of 'Trump Mini-Me' appeal loss of defamation lawsuit against Newsweek

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jun 7, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – After losing their case against Newsweek in a Philadelphia federal court this past spring, the parents of a child supporter of President Donald Trump who claimed he was defamed in the publication have appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

On March 3, U.S. District Court Judge Juan R. Sanchez dismissed an amended complaint from Brian and Melissa McCafferty, ruling their claims for defamation and false light associated with a published article about their son, “C.M.," a vocal supporter of President Trump, did not meet the legal standards for their assertion.

“The McCaffertys’ defamation and false light claims on behalf of C.M. will be dismissed because the challenged statements in the article are incapable of defamatory meaning or placing C.M. in a false light,” Sanchez said.

“The McCaffertys’ own defamation and false light claims will also be dismissed because the article fails to mention them and cannot reasonably be understood to be about them. Accordingly, Newsweek’s motion to dismiss will be granted.”

Just five days later, the McCaffertys announced intentions to appeal the decision to the Third Circuit, where their case remains pending.

President Trump’s sister, former federal appellate judge Maryanne Trump Barry, once sat on the Third Circuit bench, but took inactive senior status shortly after the president’s inauguration in 2017. This past February, she retired amid a reported probe into Trump family finances.

The McCaffertys (individually and on behalf of their minor son, C.M.) of Philadelphia initially filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Feb. 21, 2018, versus Newsweek Media Group, Ltd.

The plaintiffs launched a defamation lawsuit against Newsweek, for labeling their son as a “Trump Mini-Me” and as a part of a sinister plot by the political alt-right in “defending raw racism and sexual abuse.”

The litigation was later removed to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The McCaffertys alleged their son C.M. was unfairly characterized in an article titled “Trump’s Mini-Mes,” published in a January 2018 print edition of Newsweek and which displayed his full name and photograph.

“As set forth in the offending article, the defendant characterizes C.M. as part of a ‘weird little army’ of ‘mini-mes’ that has been ‘weaponized’ – by the ‘alt-right’ and/or his parents – as part of a greater scheme to defend ‘racism and sexual abuse,’ and, even more offensively, all under a picture of C.M. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and the defendant knew or should have known this,” the suit stated.

A copy of the print version of the article is included an exhibit in the complaint.

The McCaffertys argued Newsweek claimed the “voices behind C.M. are hiding behind children as part of yet another sinister plot to weaponize children through the seduction of becoming ‘a celebrity’ and that the magazine feels “no child has the right to organically develop a conservative point of view…it must be part of a bigger, sinister plot to exploit or hide behind children.”

“In reality, it is Newsweek itself that is disgracefully ‘weaponizing’ children, as the reckless article brands and punishes a child simply because he chooses to exercise a First Amendment right to be conservative,” the plaintiffs alleged.

“To forever link C.M. and his parents to a scheme designed to defend racism and/or sexual abuse in any manner whatsoever is false, defamatory and outrageous, and no reasonable journalist or editor would ever have permitted such a reckless and malicious publication.”

According to the McCaffertys, Newsweek never attempted to contact them to discuss the article in question, which remains available on the publication’s website. They claim the article was a “heinous, horrendous, demonstrably false and malicious message” which has left their child under “a highly-offensive, national attack.”

The online version of the article is instead titled “Trump’s Child Crusaders” and does not feature a sub-headline referring to the political alt-right’s “weird little army” of child supporters.

For counts of false light and defamation, the plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages substantially in excess of the arbitration limits, plus costs, pre- and post-judgment delay damages, interest and any further relief the Court deems just and appropriate, along with demands of the defendant for preservation of documents, communications and other relevant evidence, and a trial by jury.

The plaintiffs are represented by Dion G. Rassias of The Beasley Law Firm, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Jeremy D. Mishkin of Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads, also in Philadelphia, plus Michael Berry and Matthew E. Kelley of Ballard Spahr, in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 19-1545

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:18-cv-01276

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

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