Trump Campaign Sues NBC Station Over 'Defamatory and False' Ad


President Donald Trump’s campaign has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wisconsin TV network after the channel aired a misleading political ad that relied on editing to make it appear as though he was calling the coronavirus a “hoax.”

The lawsuit, which was filed Monday in Price County, Wisconsin, claimed Rhinelander’s WJFW-TV aired a misleading ad from the far-left super PAC Priorities USA more than 36 times after it was issued a cease-and-desist letter on March 26.

The advertisement, according to a copy of the defamation suit, ran until April 6 and aired 10 times that day.

According to the Trump campaign’s legal filing, the ad “does not just contain false and defamatory statements about President Trump — it is far more insidious and, ultimately, far more dangerous” and the network has thus “perpetrated a fraud on the public by recklessly broadcasting PUSA’s defamatory and false advertisement.”

“The advertisement was produced through the use of digital technology by taking audio clips from Trump Campaign events and piecing those clips together to manufacture a blatantly false statement that was never said by President Trump,” the lawsuit read.

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“The Cease and Desist Letter explained, in relevant part, that the PUSA ad stitched together audio clips from candidate Trump’s statements to fraudulently and maliciously represent that he called the coronavirus pandemic a ‘hoax.’”

The lawsuit further claimed that “[the station] continued to broadcast the PUSA ad and therefore it continued to defame the Trump Campaign.”

“The false statements in the PUSA ad as broadcast by [the station] are intended to impede the purpose and goal of the Trump Campaign, by negatively impacting the Trump Campaign’s ability to reelect its candidate,” the lawsuit read.

The ad, which can be seen below, splices together soundbites of comments from Trump over a period of months while using a line graph that tallies confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Do you think the Trump campaign's lawsuit will discourage other networks from intentionally airing misleading ads?

The clips used in the ad are from President Trump’s Feb. 28 rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, where he said that Democrats were pushing a narrative that he was not taking the threat from the coronavirus seriously.

“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus,” Trump told supporters at the rally. “They have no clue, they don’t have any clue, they can’t even count their votes in Iowa.”

“This is their new hoax,” he added, referring to what he said would be his opposition’s new “talking point” after he was acquitted on two articles of impeachment in the Senate.

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Trump’s statement was quickly taken out of context, and it was widely reported that he was describing the virus itself as a “hoax.”

The president explained the following morning at a media briefing with his coronavirus task force that he was referring to Democrats using the outbreak against him as a continuation of their attempts to undermine his presidency.

“Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus itself a hoax,” liberal fact-checking website Snopes wrote of the controversy.

The Trump campaign is seeking unspecified damages, but asks for “[c]osts, disbursements, and attorneys’ fees to the maximum amount allowed by law.”

Trump campaign senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis issued a statement about the lawsuit to The Hill.

“It is disappointing that WJFW-NBC would knowingly continue to broadcast this blatantly false ad and perpetrate falsehoods on the American people, even after the Trump campaign provided proof in good faith of the ad’s falsity,” Ellis said.

The Hill reported that the Trump campaign sent similar cease-and-desist letters to numerous TV stations in battleground states in March.

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.