Donald Trump settles beauty pageant lawsuit

Donald Trump and wife Melania at his New Hampshire victory rally on Feb 9, 2016.
Donald Trump and wife Melania at his New Hampshire victory rally on Feb 9, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump said on Thursday he has settled a US$500 million (S$695 million) lawsuit against Spanish-language television network Univision over its decision not to broadcast the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants.

The settlement resolved a lawsuit filed in June after Univision said it would not air the Miss USA pageant, an event Trump then half-owned, due to what the network called insulting remarks made by Trump about Mexican immigrants.

Terms of settlement were not disclosed.

The announcement came two days after Trump won the New Hampshire primary, in a big boost to his status as front-runner in the race to be the Republican nominee in November's US presidential election.

Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, said in a statement he had known Univision Communications chief executive Randy Falco "for more than 20 years and I'm glad we are able to put these differences behind us."

Falco, in his own statement distributed along with Trump's, said Univision was "pleased to settle this matter and move forward."

The lawsuit, which sought US$500 million, stemmed from comments Trump made in announcing his presidential candidacy on June 16, in which he accused Mexico of sending rapists and other criminals to the United States.

"They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we are getting," he said at the time.

Univision subsequently said it would not air the Miss USA pageant set to air that July 12 and would sever ties with the Miss Universe Organisation, which had been a joint venture between Trump and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.

In doing so, Univision cited Trump's "recent, insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants."

NBC also cut ties with the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, citing Trump's comments.

It later announced it would replace Trump as host of NBC's reality TV show The Celebrity Apprentice with Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Trump had already stepped down from the show to run for president.

In his lawsuit, Trump accused Univision of without legal justification terminating its contractual relationship with the Miss Universe Organisation and refusing to broadcast the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants from 2015 through 2019.

The lawsuit also alleged Univision executives colluded with NBC executives or "threatened economic coercion" to cause NBC to severe its own business relationship in order to "suppress Mr Trump's First Amendment rights and defame his image."