Lawyers for Melania Trump netted an early victory Friday for the first lady, who is seeking damages against a Maryland blogger after he published a report claiming she once worked as a top-dollar escort.
At a pretrial hearing, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell decided not to toss out the defamation suit, despite an attorney for blogger Webster Tarpley arguing that the suit itself was frivolous and he was within his rights to publish rumors that could have affected husband Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the Associated Press reported.
Judge Burrell said the published suggestion that Trump, a former model, had worked as a "high-end escort" was akin to describing her as a prostitute.
"There could be no more defamatory statement than to call a woman a prostitute," Burrell said, according to POLITICO.
Trump attended an initial hearing last month, but she was not in court Friday.
The judge, meanwhile, declined to rule on whether to dismiss another lawsuit against Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, which published an article on its site on Aug. 20 about reports questioning Trump's alleged link to an escort agency. The newspaper, which had a story suggesting she worked as an escort in the 1990s before she married Donald Trump, retracted the story.
Burrell is expected to provide a written opinion on the suit against the Daily Mail's parent company at a later date.
Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, said in a statement in September that any allegations about her are "100% false and tremendously damaging to her personal and profession reputation." He said the damages against her are estimated at $150 million.
Harder previously represented Hulk Hogan in his successful suit against Gawker Media, which eventually was sold to Univision. The company's flagship site, Gawker.com, shut down.
Tarpley has called the defamation lawsuit against him a "blatant attempt to intimidate not only me but journalists of all stripes into remaining silent with regard to public figures"