CNN demands Trump campaign stop using ‘distorted’ clip from network in ad

CNN sent a cease-and-desist letter to President Trump’s reelection campaign over what it describes as a “false, misleading and deceptive” use of the network’s coverage in its recent campaign ad.

According to the network, the letter was drawn up by Rick D. McMurtry, who is associate general counsel for CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia. The letter takes issue with the campaign’s use of the CNN coverage in it’s “American Comeback” ad. 

The ad, which dropped on Sunday and touts the president’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, includes a clip of a discussion between CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta and “The Situation Room” host Wolf Blitzer on his program in late March. 

During the program, Blitzer asked Gupta, “Well, is it accurate that if these steps had not been put in place, the stay-at-home orders, the social distancing orders, as the president said yesterday, it could have been 2 million people dead here in the United States?”

Gupta responded, “I mean, you know, these are all models, Wolf. It’s a little tough to say, but, you know, if you talk about something that is spreading, you know, very robustly throughout a community. You know, two to three times more contagious than flu, and up to 10 times, perhaps even more than that, more deadly than flu, then yes.”

The president’s campaign ad only features an edited portion of the moment, in which Blitzer asks, “Is it accurate that if these steps had not been put in place … it could’ve been 2 million people dead here in the United States?” 

The clip then cuts to Gupta just answering, “Yes.”

In between the edited exchange, the ad also flashes footage of what appears to be a screen showing canceled flights and a picture of an Air China plane. 

McMurtry said in his letter that the ad “purposely and deceptively edits the clip to imply that Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were crediting the President’s travel ban policy issued in January for saving millions of American lives, when in fact Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were discussing recently implemented social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments,” CNN reported.

“CNN hereby demands that you discontinue airing the advertisement with the CNN clip that has been distorted in such a way as to mislead the public,” the lawyer continued in the letter.

McMurtry also pointed out that the network had asked the president’s campaign to modify the ad and “correct the issue” after reviewing the ad when it was submitted for broadcast on the channel last week.

“CNN was willing to accept the advertisement if the misuse had been corrected,” he added. “Despite this notice, you refused to correct the advertisement and knowingly proceeded with distributing the advertisement as is with the misleading claim.”

The campaign on Monday night tweeted the ad, saying “CNN is EXTREMELY triggered by this new ad! It’d be a shame if we kept sharing it…”

Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign, pushed back against the network’s cease-and-desist letter in a statement to The Hill on Tuesday.
“No discussion of efforts to prevent American deaths from the coronavirus can be had without the understanding that President Trump restricted travel from China in January. Based on that alone, the ad is accurate,” Murtaugh said in the statement. 
“More importantly, CNN is once again the only outlet to reject a Trump campaign ad, and has now rejected multiple Trump ads that are demonstrably accurate,” he continued. 
He also accused the network of “using its own rejection of this latest Trump ad to concoct a bogus news story in its continuing effort to campaign against President Trump.” 
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