Defamation | Disinformation

Trump Sues Wisconsin TV Station For Airing Democratic Super PAC Ad

Trump Coronavirus
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the coronavirus response daily briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Update 11/13/2020: President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, WJFW-NBC, and Priorities USA reached a settlement ending the litigation.

President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed a defamation suit against WJFW-NBC, a Wisconsin television station, over an advertisement created by a liberal super PAC, Priorities USA.

Filed on April 13th in Price County Wisconsin Circuit Court, the lawsuit claims that the TV ad spliced together two video clips from separate campaign events to make it appear as if the president has said the phrase “The coronavirus, this is their new hoax.” 

According to the suit, the word “this” in the second half of the sentence referred not to the existence of the coronavirus, but to the Democrat’s alleged politicization of the pandemic.

“WJFW-NBC has perpetrated a fraud on the public by recklessly broadcasting PUSA’s defamatory and false advertisement, which WJFW-NBC knew or should have known was produced through the use of technology that depicted a clearly false statement,” the complaint argues.

When presidential candidate Joe Biden tweeted out the video in March, fact checkers at The Washington Post called it a “clear example of deceptive editing.” According to The Hill, the ad is running in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

Last month, Trump’s reelection campaign sent cease and desist letters to WJFW-NBC and other news stations that were airing the ad, warning that the stations would face legal action if they didn’t stop.

John Schwerin, a strategist for Priorities USA, told The Hill that his organization stands by the facts in the ad. “Our ad uses a series of Trump’s own words to show that he downplayed the threat of the pandemic even as the infection spread,” Schwerin said. “Holding our elected officials accountable is critical when they are falling down on the job, and we will continue to do that.”

In the past, the Trump campaign has been accused of running false advertisements, including one in October 2019 that accused  Biden of bribing Ukrainian officials. Trump also came under fire earlier that year for retweeting a doctored video of House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it seem like she had difficulty speaking.

The lawsuit requests attorneys’ fees and jury by trial.

The Hill Lawsuit