Former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against journalist Bob Woodward for allegedly publishing interviews without the president’s permission.
Trump is seeking $49 million from Woodward and co-defendant Simon & Schuster, who published Woodward’s book Rage in September of 2020, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.
“This case centers on Mr. Woodward’s systematic usurpation, manipulation, and exploitation of audio President Trump gathered in connection with a series of interviews conducted by Mr. Woodward,” states Trump’s lawsuit. “Said audio was protected material, subject to various limitations on use and distribution—as a matter of copyright, license, contract, basic principles of the publishing industry, and core values of fairness and consent.”
The lawsuit accuses Woodward of “usurping, manipulating, and exploiting” the interviews and that Woodward, Simon & Schuster, and its parent company Paramount Global “systematically, blatantly, and unlawfully usurped President Trump’s copyright interests, his contractual rights, and the rights he holds as an interviewee, through the publication of an audiobook (and other works, as set forth below) predicated upon the subject audio—solely for their own financial gain and without any accounting or recompense to him.”
Trump’s legal team said that the defendants have “brazenly refused” to acknowledge Trump’s claim to the material and “proffered various flawed and irrelevant justifications which are unavailing and devoid of any legal merit.”
“President Trump told Woodward numerous times that the Interviews were to be used by Woodward—and Woodward only—for the sole purpose of accurately quoting President Trump for the ‘written word,’ i.e., Rage, and not for any other purpose, including providing, marketing, or selling the Interviews to the public, press, or the media, in any way, shape, or form,” the lawsuit states.
Woodward interviewed Trump at least 20 times between December 2019 and July 2020 at multiple locations — over the phone, at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House.
In his book, Woodward claimed that Trump downplayed the dangers of the COVID-19 outbreak while speaking publicly. Trump reportedly told Woodward in March of 2020, “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Recordings of the interviews were published in October of 2022 as part of an audiobook titled “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Donald Trump.”
“I wanted to put as much of Trump’s voice, his own words, out there for the historical record so people can hear and make their own assessments,” Woodward said in the audiobook recording, per ABC News.
Woodward published two other books about Trump’s time in office – Fear, released in September of 2018, and Peril, in September of 2021.
Trump’s legal team argued that publishing the interviews without the former president’s consent was an attempt to make up for the commercial sales of Rage which was less enthusiastically received by the public than Fear.
Moreover, the lawsuit says the recordings were manipulated, including by selective omission, to portray Trump in a negative light.
“All these interviews were on the record and recorded with President Trump’s knowledge and agreement,” said Woodward and the publisher in a joint statement, per Axios. “Moreover, it is in the public interest to have this historical record in Trump’s own words. We are confident that the facts and the law are in our favor.”
The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District in Florida.