Melania Trump threatens lawsuit over English class billboard

A worker carrying a ladder walks past a billboard depicting the first lady Melania Trump and advertising a language school displayed in Zagreb, Croatia, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

ZAGREB, Croatia — Billboards featuring Melania Trump and the slogan "just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English" were removed Tuesday from the Croatian capital after her lawyer threatened a lawsuit.

The billboards were part of a marketing campaign by a private English language school in Zagreb, which tried to persuade Croats to learn English by reminding them of the Slovenian-born U.S. first lady's personal experience.

But Mrs. Trump did not accept what was apparently meant to be a joke about her English, spoken with a heavy accent. Her Slovenian lawyer demanded that the billboards, showing Melania Trump delivering a speech standing before a fluttering American flag, be immediately removed.

"I'm satisfied with the fact that the school admitted that they violated the law and that they are ready to remove the billboards and (Facebook) ads," lawyer Natasa Pirc-Musar told The Associated Press. "We are still analyzing possible further legal steps."

Melania Trump has hired the law firm to protect her image, which has appeared on various products in her native Slovenia, including cakes, underwear and tourism advertisements.

Pirc-Musar said that the Croatian school has apologized for the billboards, but that the statement also needs to be published by the Croatian and Slovenian state news agencies.

"We are very sorry that the billboards were misunderstood as something intended to mock the U.S. first lady," Ivis Buric, a spokeswoman for the school, American Institute, said. "It was meant to be something positive, to show her as a role model."

Buric admitted that the short advertising campaign turned out to be "very successful" because of the wide publicity it received both locally and internationally. She said that the school intends to put up new billboards, this time without Melania Trump's image.

Melania Trump was born in neighboring Slovenia as Melanija Knavs. She left Slovenia in her 20s to pursue an international modeling career before meeting Donald Trump at a Fashion Week party in New York in 1998.

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AP Writers Ali Zerdin in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, contributed.

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