The Daily Mail and Mail Online will pay damages to settle a libel claim brought by the US first lady, Melania Trump, over false claims about her work as a professional model.
An agreed statement was read out to Mr Justice Nicol in court 14 of the Royal Courts of Justice in London on behalf of both parties. Ms Trump will be paid damages understood to be under $3 million (€2.8 million); the amount was not disclosed in the hearing.
The statement said the article, published last summer in a double-page spread and onlin, included “false and defamatory claims about [Mrs Trump] which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling”.
The statement, read out by solicitor John Kelly, of the law firm Harbottle and Lewis, added: "The article included statements that Mrs Trump denied the allegations and Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modelling agency, also denied the allegations and the article also stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations.
“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’. These allegations about Mrs Trump are not true.”
The original Daily Mail story was published on August 20th, 2016 under the headline "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump."
Ms Trump reportedly sought damages of $150 million.
The statement added: “The allegations strike at the heart of the claimant’s personal integrity and dignity. The claimant has not acted as alleged. The suggestion that such allegations even merit investigation is deeply offensive and has caused a great deal of upset to the claimant.”
Mr Kelly added: “The article occupied a double-page spread with the headline printed in large bold font over one-third of page 15. The article was illustrated with an old photograph of the claimant standing naked with her front against a wall but her face turned towards the camera.
“The photograph was prominently displayed and occupied almost the entire right-handed side of page 15. Readers of the newspaper could not fail to miss the article.”
Retraction and apology
Catrin Evans QC, for the Daily Mail owner Associated Newspapers, told the court that everything in the statement was accepted by the newspaper. The allegations had already been retracted and withdrawn, she added.
The settlement is understood to cover legal actions brought by Trump against the Daily Mail in both the UK and US.
The retraction and apology, which will be published in the Daily Mail and on its website, reads:
“The Daily Mail newspaper and the Mail Online/DailyMail.com website published an article on 20th August 2016 about Melania Trump which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling. The article included statements that Mrs Trump denied the allegations and Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modelling agency, also denied the allegations, and the article also stated that there was no evidence to support the allegations. 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’.
“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.”