The Trump Files: The Time Donald Sued Someone Who Made Fun of Him for $500 Million

Mother Jones illustration; Shutterstock

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

Donald Trump being Donald Trump, he more than once aspired to build the world’s tallest skyscraper. In 1984, it looked like he might get his chance.

That July, Trump told the media he was eyeing a soon-to-be-constructed section of landfill on the East River in Lower Manhattan as the site for a 150-story tower. “New York City deserves to have the tallest and greatest building in the world, and I would be very interested in doing it,” he told the New York Times. Trump’s proposed 1,940-foot combination office, apartment, and hotel building would smash the height record then held by the Sears Tower in Chicago by nearly 500 feet.

Reactions were skeptical. The Associated Press reported that Paul Goldstein, the manager of the community board for the area where the tower would stand, literally giggled as he considered the idea. “We’ve had some bizarre development proposals down here, but this takes the cake,” he said. In Chicago, architecture critic Paul Gapp ridiculed Trump’s plan in an article for the Chicago Tribune. “The world’s tallest tower would be one of the silliest things anyone could inflict on New York or any other city,” he said. Trump hadn’t produced any drawings of the tower, so the story was accompanied by a conceptual sketch of the building as dreamed up by the Tribune, with Gapp explaining why the likely end product would be pointless and inefficient.

Trump decided the best course of action was to sue Gapp and the Tribune for libel—and $500 million in damages. He claimed Gapp’s review had “virtually torpedoed” the project and subjected him “to public ridicule and contempt, all of which have caused him to suffer embarrassment and financial harm.” The Tribune’s drawing was deemed “an atrocious, ugly monstrosity” by Trump’s lawyers.

The case was dismissed about a year later, but it cost the Tribune $60,000 in legal fees to get the angry billionaire off its back, according to the Washington Post.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.