Following one more threat of litigation from President Donald Trump against a major book publisher, free speech and book industry organizations have again released statements condemning the president’s attempts to prevent the publication of a book expressing unfavorable views on his administration.
A joint statement, published by the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) and signed by a range of organizations—including the Association of American Publishers, PEN America and the Authors Guild—condemned a letter sent by Trump lawyer Charles Harder to Simon Schuster last week. The letter alleges that Omarosa Manigault Newman’s recently-published Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House violates a non-disclosure agreement and demands that the book not be released. SS published the book last Tuesday, and responded, through counsel, with a letter of its own.
“For the second time this year, President Donald Trump has attempted to intimidate a book publisher by threatening legal action against it,” the statement reads, noting that Trump’s first attempt to halt the publication of a book billed as an exposé of his administration, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, was baseless and, as a result, failed. (Wolff’s book went on to become a massive bestseller.)
The statement went on: “The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that ‘debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.’ Lawyers for Simon Schuster argue strongly that the book ‘legitimately reports on information that is plainly newsworthy and highly relevant to matters of public concern.'”
In a separate statement, the Authors Guild said it was “shocking that the White House has sent another baseless threat of litigation.” The Guild continued: “As we said when Trump’s lawyers sent a cease and desist to block Fire and Fury, the ability to criticize the government and its leaders lies at the essence of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech; and threats of libel lawsuits are one of the de facto primary means of curtailing free speech in this country today.”
These statements follow a flurry of First Amendment–related news surrounding the president. Last week, in a response to the Trump administration’s condemnations of the free press, PEN America released a statement, following a slate of editorials in newspapers nationwide, in which it declared that it “stands with local newsrooms to defend free press.” Among statements from news outlets including the Miami Herald, The Dallas Morning News, and the New York Times, Publishers Weekly‘s news department released its own statement, which can be read in full here.