Defamation | Political Speech

Trump Settles Defamation Lawsuit Against Wisconsin TV Station

U.S. President Donald Trump leaves after delivering remarks following the U.S. Military airstrike against Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, Iraq, in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 3, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

On November 13th, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign settled a defamation suit against a local Wisconsin TV station over a political advertisement created by a liberal super PAC, Priorities USA.

Originally filed in Price County Wisconsin Circuit Court, the lawsuit claimed WJFW, an affiliate of NBC, had run a political advertisement containing a doctored video that made it seem like Trump had called the coronavirus a “hoax”. The full clip showed Trump was referring not to the virus, but to the Democratic party’s alleged politicization of the virus. 

See previous story: Trump Sues Wisconsin TV Station For Airing Democratic Super PAC Ad

Two weeks after the case was filed, it was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. On June 18th, Priorities USA was added as a defendant.

According to Law 360, Trump’s reelection campaign, WJFW-NBC, and Priority USA have agreed to pay their own costs, attorney fees, and expenses.

While the settlement does not include an apology from the re-election campaign, Charles Tobin, one of the attorneys representing WJFW-NBC, framed it as a win. 

“Trying to chill the First Amendment rights of local broadcasters should never be in a political candidate’s playbook. WJFW is pleased the Trump campaign, having lost the election, has finally come to that conclusion,” Tobin told Law 360. Tobin is a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP.

Law 360