Trump lawsuit against Rhinelander TV dismissed by court

    The giant hodag statue wearing a COVID-19 mask
    Rhinelander mythical creature the hodag at the welcome center via State Department of Human Services

    The defamation lawsuit filed by President Donald Trump’s campaign against Rhinelander television station WJFW-NBC was dismissed with prejudice on Friday, as the lawyers representing Northland Television, LLC had requested after the Trump campaign filed the lawsuit on April 13.

    This decision in Wisconsin’s Western District Court came just days after the TV station asked a judge to dismiss the case, according to the Wausau Daily Herald because Trump lost the presidential election to President-elect Joe Biden.

    Trump’s campaign sued the northern Wisconsin station for airing an advertisement titled “Exponential Threat,” from the liberal political action committee Priorities USA that was critical of the president’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. The ad showed the mounting numbers of novel coronavirus cases with Trump’s face in the background as it played audio clips of Trump’s statements about the virus to make the case that Trump did not handle the pandemic well or truthfully.

    “This advertisement fits squarely within the protections that the Supreme Court says all Americans have for political speech,” WJFW’s lead counsel Charles Tobin, chair of the First Amendment and Media practice group at the national law firm of Ballard Spahr LLP, based in Washington D.C., told the Examiner in June.

    “It is the highest form of protected speech because it involves political issues,” Tobin continued. “The Supreme Court has recognized that of all that in the hierarchy of free speech, political speech is the most important.”

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    Melanie Conklin
    Melanie Conklin is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications. She is excited to be back at the craft of journalism as Deputy Editor of the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.