Months After Winning $140 Million Court Case, Hulk Hogan Sues Gawker Again
Apparently buoyed by a pair of recent legal judgments in his favor totaling $140 million, former wrestler Terry Bollea, better known as Hulk Hogan, up and sued Gawker again on Monday. Gawker is challenging the result of the original lawsuit over the site’s posting of a sex tape featuring Hogan; the latest suit accuses Gawker of leaking sealed court documents that contained a racist rant by Hogan against his daughter’s boyfriend at the time, who is black.
The National Enquirer published the comments that were part of the sex-tape case against Gawker, and World Wrestling Entertainment promptly severed all ties with Hogan. The suit claims the leak damaged the wrestler's finances and reputation. Gawker denied leaking the transcript. “This is getting ridiculous,” Gawker wrote in a statement. “Hulk Hogan is a litigious celebrity abusing the court system to control his public image and media coverage. ... It’s time for Hulk Hogan to take responsibility for his own words, because the only person who got Hulk Hogan fired from the WWE is Hulk Hogan.”
“The suit in Pinellas County Court also accuses a talent agent, two disc jockeys, a radio company and a lawyer of conspiring to send media outlets the sex tape and causing Hogan emotional distress and economic harm,” according to the Associated Press.
The Monday Slatest Newsletter
Today's biggest stories:
- President Obama is making an earnest push to support smart-gun technology that would prevent weapons from being fired by anyone except an authorized user. But in the United States, where the president doesn't have much power to advance gun control, the effort may well go nowhere.
- Donald Trump, already America's leading source of inappropriate sexual metaphors and sexist commentary, announced that "we can't continue to allow China to rape our country." (Here's today's Trump Apocalypse Watch.)
- Crazy long-shot upstart Leicester City won soccer's Premier League.
- Ted Cruz engaged in an extremely Sisyphean argument with a pro-Trump heckler, while Carly Fiorina fell off a stage on the same day that the Cruz/Fiorina ticket's poll numbers in Indiana fell off a cliff.
- And Malia Obama is going to Harvard.
Have a good night out there!
Today’s Trump Apocalypse Watch: Again With the Rape Comments
The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.
“We can't continue to allow China to rape our country,” Donald Trump said Monday on the subject of economic relations between the United States and its largest Asian trading partner. Trump is already viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of American women, and comments like that aren't going to help him move that number downward, particularly coming from someone who launched his campaign with a different offensive comment about rape. The real estate heir has also obtained endorsements from Mike Tyson and Bobby Knight; Knight once said that people should “enjoy” rape if it was “inevitable,” while Tyson went to prison for raping a woman. The point is that the Trump campaign is not yet turning into a juggernaut of unstoppable mainstream appeal and good judgment.
That said, nothing Trump has done recently has hurt his poll numbers in Indiana, where he is expected to roll over Ted Cruz Tuesday in a primary that will likely set him up to win a first-ballot majority at the Republican convention. Our danger level stays steady.
Watch the Fantastic Goal That Won the Premier League for Leicester City
Little, lovable Leicester City, which started the season as a 5,000-to-1 underdog to win the Premier League, is now a champion. All Leicester needed to clinch the title was a loss or draw from second-place Tottenham against Chelsea. That looked unlikely when Tottenham went into halftime with a 2–0 lead. But Chelsea pulled out a 2–2 draw thanks to this wonderful goal from Eden Hazard.
To learn more about Leicester’s unlikely run, read Eric Betts’ piece on the most shocking championship in the history of professional sports.
Fine Print of Major Obama Announcement Shows How Hard It Is to Make Progress on Gun Control
The White House launched two new gun-control initiatives last Friday via a Facebook post by the president, a detailed press release by Valerie Jarrett, and a 16-page joint report by the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense. One of the initiatives involves the integration of federal mental-health data into background checks; the other, which was given prominent coverage in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Mother Jones, among other publications, involves administration support for "smart gun" technology that would prevent weapons from being fired by anyone other than authorized users. Here's the Times' headline:
That's an accurate summary of what happened, but reading the actual 16-page administration report on the issue is a reminder of how slowly gun-safety ideas move in the United States and how little authority the White House has to act unilaterally on the issue—or, in other words, a reminder of how little impact Obama's decision to put his weight behind smart guns might actually have.
The joint report underlines, for instance, just how long smart-gun development has been going on for, noting that the first federal report on the subject was published in 1996 after a "multiyear" research process. Some federal grant money subsequently went toward the development of the technology—but only a total of $12.6 million over two decades. (The gun-violence news site the Trace, which Slate has partnered with in the past, notes that the Clinton administration arranged for Smith & Wesson to research smart guns privately in 2000 only for the company to change its mind after a backlash.) In January 2013 Obama "directed DOJ to review existing and emerging gun safety technologies and then issue a report on their availability and potential use." That led to another report and a coinciding DOJ initiative called the "Gun Safety Technology Challenge," which involves monetary prizes for private manufacturers doing smart-gun research. The prizes, which haven't yet been awarded to anyone, max out at $15,000 per manufacturer. And the one company that's actually developed market-ready smart guns, meanwhile, has not been able to sell them because of heavy boycott pressure.
That brings us to the White House's new gambit: Developing a set of standards for smart guns in collaboration with state and local law-enforcement authorities across the country. The idea is that creating guidelines for reliability and ease of use will encourage manufacturers to make smart guns that police departments and other groups will want to buy, thus creating a market incentive for their manufacture and real-life proof of their efficacy. The new report says the government will also "seek ways to highlight the availability of federal grant funding to support the purchase of firearms and related equipment for law enforcement use." But participation in the program by state and local agencies will be completely voluntary, and the administration doesn't actually have any new grant funding to offer; it's just going to highlight the funding that already exists. Emphasizing the dearth of official information-gathering on the subject of gun violence, meanwhile, the report acknowledges that neither the Department of Justice nor the Department of Homeland Security have any available data regarding how many illegally trafficked firearms were originally lost by or stolen from law-enforcement officers or on how many accidental shootings involve law-enforcement officers' family members.
It's not as if these piece-meal efforts demonstrate a lack of willpower on the White House's part. Obama has been consistently vocal in recent years on the subject of gun violence. But the executive branch is, of course, limited in what it can do by the Constitution, and getting Congress to do anything at all about gun violence is very, very hard. Combine that with the significant market pressure exerted by paranoid gun-rights activists and you get a federal smart-gun initiative that has the full backing of the president but still doesn't amount to much more than rhetoric.
“Indiana Don’t Want You.” Watch Ted Cruz Try to Confront a Trump Supporter.
Ted Cruz was campaigning in Marion, Indiana, on Monday as part of his last-ditch effort to salvage a shot at Tuesday’s crucial primary in the state when he decided to do something unusual. In front of a pack of reporters, Cruz went up to protesters outside of his rally who were there to voice their support for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.
The interaction was entertaining and informative on a raw level. It basically shows Cruz desperately attempting to argue with, cajole, and ultimately lecture a Republican voter who clearly dislikes him a great deal, is clearly very angry at the political system, and is also very clearly inspired by Trump.
The exchange could basically be viewed as a metaphor for the entire race, with Cruz—in an odd twist, now representing establishment Republicans—talking down to the voter, repeating memorized talking points to the voter, and fudging the truth to the voter, who rejects him out of hand as a typical politician, part of the problem, a liar, and possibly Canadian. Cruz's utter inability to connect with this person on any kind of human level contrasts perfectly with Trump's straightforward speaking style and points to another part of Trump's big appeal in this Republican primary: He doesn't talk like these other guys.
The conversation starts off promisingly enough with the heckler, who declined to give his name to reporters after the event, saying flatly “we don’t want you.” The protester then calls for Cruz to drop out of the race based on him being mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination on the first ballot.
Trump leads Cruz by more than 400 delegates according to the AP count and is closing in on the numbers he needs to be able to go into July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland with enough delegates to secure the nomination without a floor fight. Indiana’s contest was going to be a crucial test for Cruz, but the latest polling has Trump up by huge amounts with two polls released in the past couple days showing him with respective leads of 15 points and 17 points. If Cruz loses in Indiana, these sorts of calls for him to get out could become more sustained.
The exchange continues with Cruz asking the man what he likes about Trump.
“The wall,” he responds simply.
Cruz then attempts to argue that Trump is lying about the wall and that his true immigration positions have not yet been revealed.
“You are the problem,” the heckler responds. “You are the problem, politician, you are the problem.”
“Can I ask you something?” Cruz says.
“No,” the heckler responds.
Cruz goes on anyway and says, “out of all the candidates, name one who had a million-dollar judgment against him for hiring illegal aliens.”
“Name one that is self-funded,” the voter replies.
“So you like rich people buying politicians,” Cruz, who had previously failed to disclose $1 million in Senate campaign donations from Goldman Sachs and Citibank, paradoxically says.
The heckler rejects the idea Cruz is anything resembling an outsider: “Where’s your Goldman Sachs jacket at? We know your wife works there.”
Cruz then seems to try to corner the protester into saying that he “agrees with” John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, figures of hatred within the conservative movement, by supporting Trump.
“I don’t agree with anybody, but I agree with Trump,” he says. “He’s the only one who’s going to put us where we need to be.”
After an exchange about gun control in which Cruz lists his credentials defending the Second Amendment and points out Trump’s flip-flops on the issue, Cruz gets super condescending.
“This man is lying to you and he's taking advantage of you,” the senator from Texas says. “If I were Donald Trump, I wouldn’t have come over and talk to you, I wouldn’t have shown you that respect. I would have told those guys over there, 'go over and punch those guys in the face.' That’s what Donald says.”
“Lying, like you always do,” the voter responds.
The voter has a point! Trump has voiced tacit support for violence at his rallies, but he hasn’t quite crossed the line into instructing supporters to attack unprovoked (he did call on supporters to throw swings at anyone who might be “getting ready to throw a tomato.”)
This is when the exchange gets its rawest, with the heckler saying flatly: “You’ll find out tomorrow, Indiana don’t want you.”
When Cruz says “America is a better country,” the heckler responds “without you.”
Finally, Cruz seems to begin to realize who he’s dealing with, but again he can’t help but give a wooden and condescending monologue that, again, is turned against him. “Thank you for those kind sentiments. Let me point out, I have treated you respectfully the entire time and a question that everyone here should ask ...” “Are you Canadian?” multiple hecklers now say, cutting him off.
The GOP's cultivation and reliance on precisely this type of voter is what is ultimately leading to Donald Trump being their near-presumptive nominee. And Ted Cruz has no response.
Watch Carly Fiorina Fall Off an Indiana Stage in Unfortunate Metaphor for Entire Cruz Campaign
Well, Carly Fiorina fell off a stage in Lafayette, Indiana, on Sunday after introducing the Cruz family. (She got back up on stage immediately and did not appear to be injured.)
The metaphor part is that the newly announced Cruz/Fiorina ticket appears to be falling in Indiana polls; a survey released Sunday found that Cruz trails Trump by 14 points in the crucial state.
Here it is in GIF form:
Indiana holds its primary on Tuesday.
Update, 2:45 p.m.: Here's a clip that's going around of Fiorina and Cruz grasping hands at the announcement last week that they'd be running together. It's just not a good time to be Carly Fiorina.
Oh Great, Now Donald Trump Is Using the Word Rape to Talk About Foreign Trade
Donald Trump reached into his bottomless bag of sexually aggressive/violent metaphors this weekend and emerged with one while talking about U.S.-China trade relations. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country,” the celebrity billionaire declared at a rally in Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Sunday.
And here is a fuller version of the Republican front-runner’s nuanced, geopolitical assessment of the relationship between the world’s two largest economic powers:
Don't forget. We're like the piggybank that's being robbed. We have the cards. We have a lot of power with China. When China doesn't want to fix the problem in North Korea, we say, ‘Sorry, folks, you gotta fix the problem.’ Because we can't continue to allow China to rape our country. And that's what they're doing. It's the greatest theft in the history of the world.
On the trail to date, Trump’s preferred line about China has been that “they’re killing us,” though CNN notes that the real estate tycoon actually used the rape metaphor at least once before this campaign cycle started, back in 2011 while he was touring a defense manufacturer in New Hampshire.
Why the change? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact Trump’s recently seen his name in the same headlines with the word rape thanks to his bizarre decision to tout his relationship with Mike Tyson during a campaign event in the very same city where the former heavyweight champ was convicted of raping a woman. Or, more likely, this is just what the GOP front-runner does. Either way, don’t expect Trump to tamp down his language. Once he stumbles up on a new incendiary turn of phrase, he tends to reuse it until he finds his next one.
New Poll Shows Tuesday Could Mark Beginning of End to “Never Trump” Campaign
It’s hardly a secret just how important Indiana has become in the Republican contest. And a new poll out Sunday is likely giving heartburn to the GOP establishment eager to find a way to stop Donald Trump before the convention. According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll, Trump has support from 49 percent of likely Republican Indiana voters, while Cruz has 34 percent and John Kasich, 13 percent. Trump’s 14-point lead is much wider than other polls in the state and suggests momentum could be on the billionaire’s side.
“If a result even close to this occurs on Tuesday, then we can all get ready to find a new party to call home,” writes Red State’s Leon Wolf.
It’s still possible for Cruz and Kasich to pick up enough delegates to prevent Trump from obtaining the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination. “But the path to doing so narrows substantially if Mr. Trump sweeps Indiana and wins all of its 57 delegates,” notes the Wall Street Journal. Getting all the delegates wouldn’t be that far-fetched if Trump’s lead is as large as the poll suggests. In Indiana, the state winner gets 30 delegates automatically and then candidates get three delegates for each of the nine congressional districts they win.
“A loss in Indiana would represent a near-fatal blow to Mr. Cruz’s campaign and would significantly increase pressure on him to withdraw from the race,” notes the New York Times. The state has been widely seen as the last chance for Cruz to obtain a big victory before the race moves to several big states that look very favorable to Trump, mainly California and New Jersey.
Considering the latest poll, it seems hardly surprising Trump was confident on Sunday, saying that if he wins on Tuesday, the Republican contest will essentially end. “Yes, it’s over. I think it’s over now, but it’s over,”' he said on Fox News Sunday. “Cruz cannot win, he’s got no highway, he’s got nothing, he’s way behind. I’m leading him by millions and millions of votes and I’m leading him by 400 or 500 delegates. He can’t win.”
Right now, Trump has 996 delegates, while Cruz has 565 and Kasich has 153, according to the Associated Press.
No, Maureen Dowd, Trump Didn’t Actually Oppose the Iraq War From the Start
Here we go again. Donald Trump likes to say that he has good foreign-policy instincts because he was opposed to the Iraq War from the beginning and pushed back against the invasion. Problem is, that claim has been thoroughly debunked over and over again. He may have expressed some concerns after the war started, but not before. And, in fact, BuzzFeed even found a radio interview with Howard Stern in which Trump said he supported the invasion about six months before the war started.
The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, though, writes her column Sunday as if the debunkings are not the first thing that pop up when you type Trump and Iraq into Google. In Dowd’s piece, she claims that the election could end up being between “Hillary the Hawk against Donald the Quasi-Dove,” noting that “in some ways, Trump seems less macho than Hillary.” And then Dowd notes that “the prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like Obama, he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea.”
Dowd goes on:
You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and Clinton that sounds oddly like the one Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq, wanting an end to nation-building and thinking he could have a reset with Russia.
Except, of course, Obama actually opposed the Iraq war, loudly and clearly months before the invasion took place.