The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit Monday against an NBC affiliate in rural Wisconsin, arguing that the president had been defamed by a political attack ad about his response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Priorities USA Action, a pro-Democratic Super PAC, produced the ad, which is dubbed “Exponential Threat.” In it, audio clips of Donald Trump are played over an rising curve depicting the spread of the virus.
“The coronavirus… this is their new hoax,” Trump says in the ad.
The lawsuit, filed in state court in rural Price County, Wis., argues that Trump’s words were taken out of context to distort their meaning.
“Absent the deceitful alteration of the audio, it is clear that ‘this’ does not refer to the coronavirus and instead refers directly to the Democrats’ politicization of the pandemic,” the lawsuit states.
Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, defended the ad in a press statement.
Popular on Variety
“This is pretty simple,” Cecil said. “Donald Trump doesn’t want voters to hear the truth and he’s trying to bully TV stations into submission. The truth is that Trump ignored warnings from experts and his own team and downplayed the coronavirus even as it spread unchecked across the country and the world. Americans are now suffering as a result of his inaction. We will never stop airing the facts and holding the president accountable for his actions.”
The Trump campaign had earlier sent a cease and desist letter to stations airing the ad on March 25, the day after the ad was released. According to the suit, WJFW-NBC, based in Rhinelander, Wis., aired the ad another 36 times over the following 11 days.
The audio clips came from a Trump rally in South Carolina on Feb. 28.
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus, you know that right? Coronavirus, they’re politicizing it,” Trump said at the rally. “One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russia.’ That didn’t work out too well. They couldn’t do it. They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’d been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”
Trump has since said that the “new hoax” was the Democrats’ criticism of him, not the virus itself.