Originally published in the Columbia Journalism Review on July 30, 2020.


“HAVE A SCORE TO SETTLE WITH THE PRESS? Charles Harder, the media lawyer who ground Gawker.com to dust, is your man.”

That was the subhead of a GQ profile of Harder published in 2016, after he won a $140 million jury verdict for Hulk Hogan against Gawker (later settled for $31 million). The profile went on to say that Harder had established himself “as perhaps the greatest threat in the United States to journalists, the First Amendment, and the very notion of a free press.”

Whether or not that’s true, Harder has said it would be “awesome” if the Gawker case had “a chilling effect on irresponsible journalism,” and he has put that enthusiasm to use for a growing list of high-profile clients—including, most recently, for Robert Trump, to try to prevent publication of Mary Trump’s book; for the Trump campaign organization, in libel lawsuits against the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN (a lot of the campaign’s total legal costs have gone to Harder); and for Sean Hannity, to demand a retraction from the Times for a Kara Swisher column. Earlier, Harder defended the president against a libel action filed by Stormy Daniels, and he represented the first lady in one against the Daily Mail. He also threatened to sue the Times on behalf of Harvey Weinstein and New York magazine on behalf of the late Roger Ailes. The list goes on.