Lawyers for the largest outside group supporting President Trump’s reelection sent letters to television station managers in key battleground states on Wednesday demanding they stop running a new ad cut by a top Democratic super PAC.
Legal counsel to America First Action, the pro-Trump group, sent a letter to station managers in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania demanding a new ad cut by Priorities USA be taken off the air, arguing that it falsely gives the impression that Trump called the coronavirus a “hoax.”
“Based on the full text of the President’s remarks, and as confirmed by numerous fact-checking outlets, it is clear that Priorities USA’s doctored footage is not only deceptive and misleading, but false,” the letter states.
“Federal law requires your station to operate in the public interest, and continuing to carry an advertisement widely condemned as false is inconsistent with that interest. On behalf of our client, America First Policies, Inc., we formally demand that your station refuse to air this advertisement,” the group adds.
The letter, from Caleb Burns and Andrew Woodson of the Wiley Rein law firm, was directed to managers at stations owned by the Graham Media Group, Tegna, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Meredith Broadcasting, Hearst Television, Cunningham Broadcasting, Morgan Murphy Stations, Quincy Newspapers and Heritage Broadcasting.
This week, Priorities USA announced it would put $6 million behind a new ad accusing Trump of mismanaging the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The ad, which is called “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 spliced 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.”
At issue is whether Trump ever described the virus as a “hoax” at a rally in South Carolina on Feb. 28.
Trump’s full quote was: “Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. 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.”
The Washington Post, as well as fact checkers at Snopes, Politifact and FactCheck.org, have said it’s wrong to claim that Trump called the virus a hoax, and that he was instead describing Democratic efforts to politicize the virus.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and several other Democratic groups have used the “hoax” remarks in their own videos, which have been shared on social media and in videos that have been viewed millions of times.
The Trump campaign has asked Twitter to apply its “manipulated media” tag to the videos but the social media giant has declined to intervene.
“This is just a press stunt from America First,” said Priorities USA strategist Josh Schwerin. “They don’t even have standing to complain about our ads and stations are immediately rejecting their complaint and are continuing to run the spot.”
“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,” he added.