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.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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.