The Trump Files: When Donald Had to Prove He Was Not the Son of an Orangutan

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This post was originally published as part of “The Trump Files“—a collection of telling episodes, strange but true stories, and curious scenes from the life of our current president—on June 23, 2016.

Donald Trump has a well-documented tendency to file lawsuits when someone hurts his feelings. In 2013, the guilty party was Bill Maher, the late-night HBO talk show host known for his liberal leanings and biting commentary.

After Trump had insisted in 2012 that President Barack Obama release his college transcripts and passport records, Maher pushed back on the mogul’s request with a demand of his own: that Trump show proof that he is not “the spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” Maher, interviewed on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, cited the similarity in color between Trump’s coif and an orange orangutan’s fur, as split-screen images of Trump next to the animal were displayed. If Trump complied with the request and proved him wrong, Maher promised he would give Trump $5 million for the charity of his choice. The charities Maher suggested? “Hair Club for Men” or the “Institute for Incorrigible Douchebaggery.”

Trump took the jab personally. He filed a $5 million lawsuit against Maher for breach of contract, alleging that when he provided his birth certificate to Maher proving he is not, in fact, the son of an orangutan, Maher never came up with the $5 million. Alas, the lawsuit didn’t get very far. Trump wound up dropping it, but the threat to Maher remained.

Michael Cohen, an attorney for Trump, insisted that although the suit had been withdrawn temporarily, it could resurface in the future. “The lawsuit was temporarily withdrawn to be amended and refiled at a later date,” Cohen said.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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