President Donald Trump’s campaign is suing a Rhinelander TV station in Price County Circuit Court for airing an advertisement it says contains “intentionally false and defamatory statements about President Trump.”
The statement in question is tied to Trump using the word “hoax” when discussing COVID-19. The ad is from Priorities USA. The Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. campaign, in its lawsuit against WJFW-NBC of Rhinelander, says the ad used digitally manipulated clips. It follows a cease-and-desist letter sent on March 25, 2020, the campaign reports.
The campaign is seeking unspecified damages and legal fees. The lawsuit against WJFW-NBC, which serves the general Wausau area, is the only station listed as being sued in a press release on the Trump-Pence campaign website.
The court document reads: “The advertisement, titled ‘Exponential Threat,’ does not just contain false and defamatory statements about President Trump—it is far more insidious and, ultimately, far more dangerous. The advertisement was produced through the use of digital technology by taking audio clips from Trump Campaign events and piecing those clips together to manufacture a blatantly false statement that was never said by President Trump: ‘The coronavirus, this is their … new hoax.’ 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 irony of the defamation charge by a president who has been documented making more than 15,000 false or misleading claims to the American people, according to The Washington Post, was not lost on some commentators who wrote about the incident after the cease-and-desist letters went out to various stations, but before the lawsuit was filed against Rhinelander’s station.
See the ad here in Slate, with an article titled “Trump Is Now Openly Trying to Censor His Critics. He May Succeed. His campaign’s cease-and-desist letter to broadcast stations is a frightening assault on free speech.”
The campaign press release on the lawsuit against the Rhinelander station states: “As is clear from his full remarks, President Trump was referring to the Democrats’ politicization of the coronavirus crisis and likening it to their reaction to the Mueller Russia hoax and the sham impeachment. He has never said that the virus itself was a hoax.”
WJFW, Newswatch 12 promptly responded to a query via email on Monday: “We have no comment at this time. Further questions can be directed to our General Manager Steve Shanks.” Shanks had not responded to an email by publication time.