Lothery & Associates

Trying Your Case in the Media: Trump vs. NYAG

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Gotta love Donald Trump. He’s the drama gift that keeps on giving. In short, The Donald is being sued by the New York Attorney General for allegedly defrauding students paying to attend Trump University. The Donald was not pleased and fired a number of personal attacks against the Attorney General in retaliation. In light of the colorful interview, I thought it was a perfect time to talk about how to try your case in the media. Both sides had strengths and weaknesses, so let’s discuss them.

Donald Trump

NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman


Quick to respond

Did his own media blitz to address the claims

Asked one good question about the government bringing suit on a Saturday

Made his own allegation against the AG


Points out that Trump never addressed the claim in any interviews or remarks

Calm demeanor

Addressed the question of whether this was a political attack on Trump and transitioned back to the case

Used relevant analogies

Brought out facts of the case and claims


Fell back to personal attacks and name calling

Yelling for the entire conversation

Deflecting with attaching outside parties to

“I’ve been doing this a long time…”


Looked directly at the camera for 80 percent of the interview, instead of at Savannah Guthrie (sitting next to him).

Did not have good eye contact

Avoided the question of whether he sought contributions for his campaign during the suit filing process

Do you remember when you were a kid, and someone decided to call you names on the playground or in class? Your mom probably told you that people who resorted to name calling or swearing weren’t smart enough to find real words to tell you what’s bothering them. Now, I’m not saying that Mr. Trump isn’t smart, but he certainly doesn’t do himself any favors by hurling out personal insults. He is making this same mistake in his lawsuit against the Swedish government, but we’ll save that for another day.

If your goal is to try your case in the media, and you believe or know the claims are false, say so. Say it clearly and directly. Cite your facts and proof that show whatever is being alleged is, in fact, false. Don’t go after people who have a tangential relationship, or bring in outside characters for your attack. Stick to the facts of the case at hand, and pick it apart, intelligently, calmly and almost with a dismissive tone, as if to say, “this is preposterous and I can’t wait to get to court to show this to a judge or jury.” 

Next, if you’re on camera, and the reporter is sitting next to you, look at them, not the camera. You’re trying the case with the reporter in the room. The audience is just eavesdropping through the lens of the camera.

And while Schneiderman was quick to point out the deflection of Donald Trump, by making personal attacks instead of attacking the case, he too, was guilty of a little duck and move. Ms. Guthrie ran out of time, but she very easily could have come back and said, “you didn’t answer the question. Did you, in fact, seek campaign contributions at the same time as you were investigating the claims?”

In the end transparency, self control, and clear and direct messaging around your case build trust. Anything short of that will result in your attempt to try a case of any kind in the media falling flat, and leave you with more work to do, not less, when you have your day in court. If we can help you develop your media case, contact us!


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