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President Donald Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, left, walks across the tarmac as President Donald Trump boards Air Force One before his departure at Andrews Air Force Base, Thursday, April 13, 2017, en route to Mar-a-Largo. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Reince Priebus said the Trump administration has looked into changing libel laws


Just a day after President Donald Trump failed to attend the annual White House Correspondents dinner, his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the White House has "looked at" changing libel laws.

"I think that's something we've looked at," Priebus said in an interview on ABC's "This Week." "How that gets executed and whether that goes anywhere is a different story."

During his presidential campaign, Trump responded to news reports critical of his policies by vowing to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists for unfair coverage if elected. 

“So when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they're totally protected," Trump said in February of 2016. 

ABC's Jonathan Karl pressed Priebus about whether the president should be able to sue news outlets for "unfair coverage."

"I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news," Priebus said. He added that there are a lot of articles out there "that have no basis of fact."

Changing libel laws would require a constitutional amendment, which Priebus acknowledged would be difficult to accomplish. 

Under current law, libel is defined as a published false statement that damages a person's reputation. 

"To meet the Supreme Court's definition of libel involving a public figure, a quotation must not only be made up or materially altered, it must also defame the person quoted, and damage his reputation or livelihood; the writer must know that it is defamatory, and the writer or publication must act with 'reckless disregard' whether it is accurate or not," according to a 1993 New York Times article by Jane Gross. 

What is libel?

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