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Donald Trump Sues George Stephanopoulos for Defamation Following Viral ABC News Interview

The former president's lawsuit centers on a March 10 interview with Rep. Nancy Mace in which Stephanopoulos said a jury had found the former president "liable for rape," instead of sexual abuse

<p>Jeff J Mitchell/Getty; Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty</p> Donald Trump (left), George Stephanopoulos

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty; Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty

Donald Trump (left), George Stephanopoulos

Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against George Stephanopoulos and ABC News on Tuesday, accusing them of defaming him in a recent television interview.

The suit centers around Stephanopoulos' viral interview with South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, a Republican who has publicly spoken about being raped at the age of 16. In the interview, Stephanopoulos questioned Mace's decision to endorse Trump, reminding her that the former president was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming former Elle advice columnist E. Jean Carroll in a civil trial last year.

The potential issue is that, rather than saying Trump was found liable of "sexual abuse," Stephanopoulos used the word "rape," which is a greater offense in New York law.

Related: Jury Concludes That Donald Trump Sexually Abused E. Jean Carroll Following Emotional Civil Trial

Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty E. Jean Carroll attends a hearing in her 2023 sexual abuse and defamation trial against Donald Trump
Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty E. Jean Carroll attends a hearing in her 2023 sexual abuse and defamation trial against Donald Trump

“You endorsed Donald Trump for president," Stephanopoulos told Mace in the March 10 interview. "Judges and two separate juries have found him liable for rape and for defaming the victim of that rape. How do you square your endorsement of Donald Trump with the testimony that we just saw?”

Mace shot back on the air, accusing Stephanopoulos of trying to "shame" her, and added, “[Trump] defended himself over that and denies that it ever happened, but he was not found guilty in a criminal court of law.”

In follow-up questions, Stephanopoulos repeated that Trump had been found "liable for rape."

<p>JOED VIERA/AFP via Getty</p> Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a presidential campaign rally in July 2023

JOED VIERA/AFP via Getty

Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a presidential campaign rally in July 2023

Though Carroll's lawsuit initially sought to hold Trump accountable for rape, a jury settled on the lesser offense of sexual abuse. Still, Judge Lewis Kaplan — who oversaw the case — wrote in a later court filing that the jury didn't exactly rule out rape.

From the filing: “The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was ‘raped’ within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word ‘rape.’ Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.”

Related: E. Jean Carroll Says She’ll Do ‘a Lot of Good’ with Trump’s $83 Million: ‘Women Won This One’

Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC News' "This Week" and "Good Morning America"
Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC via Getty Images George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC News' "This Week" and "Good Morning America"

In the suit filed Tuesday against Stephanopoulos and ABC News, Trump accuses the journalist of acting "with actual malice or with a reckless disregard for the truth" by making statements he knew to be 'patently and demonstrably false.'"

The suit details that the jury in the case found Trump liable for sexual assault and defamation, but not explicitly for rape. Trump's attorneys argue in the suit that the Stephanopoulos interview was widely shared on social media, with posts "propagating the misinformation."

Trump himself has been accused of propagating misinformation, particularly as it relates to the 2020 election, which he has repeatedly (and falsely) claimed he won.

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The suit filed by the former president also comes two months after he was ordered to pay $83.3 million for making defamatory statements about Carroll.

Weeks later, he was ordered to pay $454 million in penalties following a separate civil fraud trial that focused on his company finances.

This week, Trump's attorneys said in a court filing that the former president could not post a bond covering the full amount of the $454 million in the latter civil judgment against him (due later this month) because 30 surety companies had turned him down, The Guardian reports.

Related: Donald Trump Ordered to Pay $355 Million, Restricted from Doing Business in New York as Penalty for Fraud

In addition to the civil issues, Trump faces a number of other, criminal legal headaches in the lead-up to the 2024 election, for which he is campaigning. The former president currently faces a total of 88 felony counts as the result of four criminal investigations, each of which have led to indictments.

Stephanopoulos — who works as a co-anchor on Good Morning America and hosts ABC News' Sunday morning program This Week — served as the White House communications director under then-President Bill Clinton in 1993 and, later, as a senior adviser to the president.

ABC News declined to comment to PEOPLE about the case.

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