Trump campaign threatens legal action over liberal super PAC ad
President Trump’s reelection campaign is threatening legal action against television stations in key battleground states if they continue airing an ad cut by the liberal super PAC Priorities USA alleging that the president called the coronavirus a “hoax.”
Alex Cannon, the legal counsel for Trump’s reelection campaign, sent a letter to television stations in key battleground states where the ad is running demanding they “cease and desist” from airing the ad if they want to “avoid costly and time consuming litigation.”
“Given the foregoing, should you fail to immediately cease broadcasting PUSA’s ad ‘Exponential Threat’, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. will have no choice but to pursue all legal remedies available to it in law and in equity” the letter states. “We will not stand idly by and allow you to broadcast false, deceptive, and misleading information concerning President’s Trump’s healthcare positions without consequence.”
Priorities USA is putting $6 million behind the ad, which is running on television stations in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The ad, which is titled “Exponential Threat,” splices together different audio clips of Trump downplaying the virus over a graphic showing the number of cases on the rise.
“The coronavirus, this is their new hoax,” Trump says in the ad. “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China. One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear. When you have 15 people and within a couple of days is gonna be down to close to zero. We really think we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum. I like this stuff. I really get it. People are surprised that I understand. No, I don’t take responsibility.”
However, fact-checkers at The Washington Post, Snopes, Politifact and FactCheck.org have said it’s wrong to claim that Trump called the virus a hoax.
Instead, Trump’s full quote reveals that he was describing Democratic efforts to politicize the virus.
“Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,” Trump said in February. “We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. … And this is their new hoax. But you know we did something that’s been pretty amazing.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and several other Democratic groups have used the “hoax” remarks in their own videos. The Trump campaign has asked Twitter to apply its “manipulated media” tag to videos claiming that Trump called the virus a hoax, but the social media giant has declined to intervene.
The Trump campaign’s threat of legal action comes after an outside group aligned with the president, America First Priorities, sent a similar letter to the same TV stations demanding they pull the ad off the airwaves.
In a statement to The Hill regarding the America First complaint, Priorities USA strategist Josh Schwerin called the move a “stunt.”
“We stand by the facts in the ad and will continue to make sure that Donald Trump is held accountable for his words and actions that are making this crisis even worse,” Schwerin said.
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