The Trump campaign has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wisconsin NBC-affiliate TV station, WJWF-NBC, for airing an advertisement from a Democratic Super PAC that was critical of the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Filed in Price County on Monday, the lawsuit argues that, despite a cease-and-desist letter from the campaign, the TV station continued to air a commercial from Priorities USA that contained a “blatantly false” statement from Trump saying, “The coronavirus, this is their new hoax.”
The lawsuit says the comment was spliced together from a South Carolina campaign rally in late February.
“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 says. “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 lawsuit also cites third-party fact-checking websites like Snopes to bolster its argument.
Here is what the president said at the rally, as recorded by Snopes:
“Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. You say, ‘How’s President Trump doing?’ They go, ‘Oh, not good, not good.’ They have no clue. They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa, they can’t even count. No they can’t. They can’t count their votes.
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’ve 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. But you know, we did something that’s been pretty amazing. We’re 15 people [cases of coronavirus infection] in this massive country. And because of the fact that we went early, we went early, we could have had a lot more than that.”
The Trump campaign is seeking a trial by jury and damages in an amount to be determined at a trial.
WJWF-NBC did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, said that Trump was “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,” Cecil said in a statement. “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.”