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ABC has no choice but to stand by George Stephanopoulos after the “This Week” anchor was accused of defamation by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, according to legal guru Danny Karon. 

During a heated interview earlier this month with Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., Stephanopoulos said several times on ABC’s “This Week” that the former president was “found liable for rape.” However, a federal jury in New York decided that Trump was not liable for rape and was liable for sexual abuse and defamation in the 2023 civil trial of advice columnist E. Jean Carroll vs. Trump. 

“Stephanopoulos was a little bit free and loose in what he said,” Karon told Fox News Digital. 

The case went unaddressed on the latest episode of “This Week” on Sunday, according to a transcript. Jonathan Karl substituted for Stephanopoulos as host.


The lawsuit, filed Monday in Florida, noted that Trump representatives contacted ABC seeking a retraction following the interview, but the Disney-owned news outlet did not apologize or correct the record. ABC stood by Stephanopoulos following the interview and has declined comment since the lawsuit was filed. 

Karon, an attorney and law professor who specializes in litigation, doesn’t expect Stephanopoulos to apologize or issue clarification anytime soon.

“If you think about it, that stands to reason, doesn’t it? Because even if any of the defendants had apologized or retracted the statement, it does not undo what was said. All it does is to validate it by way of an admission, an admission that they said it and that it was wrong, which is why they retracted it. So, now you’ve got a lawsuit with an admission, which would look even worse,” Karon said. 

“It’s the same dynamic that happens in, say, medical malpractice cases when the doctor leaves a sponge inside, and she doesn’t want to apologize. Because you know what? That’s just going to be used against her in court. You can’t do it,” he continued. “That’s a sad testimonial to what we’ve come to by way of litigiousness, and it’s presented here in living color.” 


Nancy Mace George Stephanopoulos

After the federal jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse, but not rape, Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in a later ruling that just because Carroll failed to prove rape “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.’”

While some might see this as gray area, Karon feels that if someone whispered in Stephanopoulos’ earpiece, “Don’t say rape. Switch to sexual assault,” it would have neutralized the whole issue. 

Instead, Stephanopoulos repeated the term “liable for rape” 10 times during the interview.

“The network is standing behind it because they have to, because they can’t admit to anything, because it’s an admission, it’s admissible in court and trial and federal rules of evidence. And it makes things even worse,” Karon said. “The system is, in part, to blame for what we’re seeing here.” 


Donald Trump, George Stephanopoulos

This doesn’t mean Trump has a slam-dunk case, as Karon isn’t sure the former president can prove the $75,000 in damages required for action in a federal defamation case. “I’ll be you anything the defendants move to dismiss on that basis,” he said. 

Karon feels it will also be difficult to prove that Stephanopoulos made his comments with “actual malice,” the standard public figures must prove to win such cases. 

“I think the defendants are going to be left with trying to show that the elements of the claim aren’t satisfied. And if they are, there’s no damages,” Karon said. 

Trump and his campaign have filed a series of defamation lawsuits against news organizations in recent years, with suits against The New York Times, CNN and Washington Post being dismissed after judges said essential elements of defamation were not met. 

In 2020, Trump’s reelection campaign settled a defamation suit against an NBC affiliate in Wisconsin after it ran a political ad containing a doctored video that made it seem like Trump had called the coronavirus a “hoax.”

ABC previously has stood by Stephanopoulos. 

“George did his job by asking meaningful questions that are relevant to our viewers,” an ABC News spokesperson told Fox News Digital about the Mace interview prior to the lawsuit being filed.

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