Remember when Donald Trump promised to “open up” America’s libel laws?
“Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost,” he tweeted in 2018. “Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?”
It’s fun to tweet nonsense about the First Amendment during Hannity’s commercial breaks! But it’s even more fun to draft nonsense cease and desist letters. Which is why Trump’s re-election campaign sent this very serious letter to station managers in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin demanding that they pull an anti-Trump ad, OR ELSE.
On behalf of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., President Trump’s principal campaign committee, this letter notifies you that your station is airing a patently false, misleading, and deceptive advertisement, entitled “Exponential Threat,” which was paid for by the Priorities USA Action Fund (“PUSA”), a Super PAC formed by Barack Obama loyalists. PUSA stitched together fragments from multiple speeches by President Trump to fraudulently and maliciously imply that President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak a “hoax.” As fully set forth in the enclosed facts sheet, and President Trump’s full quote below, the facts show beyond reasonable doubt that he was talking about the Democrat’s politicization of the outbreak when he used the word “hoax.”
Oh, supercuts are bad now? But last month when Trump himself tweeted a doctored video that made it look like Nancy Pelosi ripped up Trump’s State of the Union speech just as he was honoring a Tuskeegee Airman, and Facebook refused to take it down, it was totally cool?
Last May, Trump shared a clip of Nancy Pelosi, deceptively edited to make it look like she was drunk, which Facebook also left in place. But now “your station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing it immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements, to serve the public interest, and to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.”
To rebut the ads which “fraudulently and maliciously imply that President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak a ‘hoax,’” the campaign includes a longer quote showing the full context.
Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. You know that, right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. […] 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 he 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 have 15 people 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.
This is supposed to be helpful? Because Donald Trump bragging at a campaign rally on February 28 that only 15 people in the entire country were sick thanks to his brilliant pandemic response is … not exactly a great look.
There’s certainly a strong case to be made that the ad is misleading — although the guy who lies so aggressively that he turned fact-checking reporter Daniel Dale into a media star is perhaps not the guy to make it. And indeed, he isn’t the one making it.
The Trump campaign can threaten to “pursue all legal remedies available to it in law and in equity,” but, as any 1L CivPro student could tell you, those legal remedies amount to exactly nothing because the campaign doesn’t have standing to sue on Trump’s behalf. And neither do Trump’s “healthcare positions,” whatever those might be.
Which is why those station managers just dropped this BS letter in the circular file after reading, “We will not stand idly by and allow you to broadcast false, deceptive, and misleading information concerning President’s Trump’s healthcare positions without consequence.”
[originally published by Elizabeth Dye in Above the Law on March 26, 2020.]