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Trump Campaign Tells TV Stations to Pull PAC Ad

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign has told TV stations to stop running and ad from Priorities USA (PUSA) Action Fund, a Democratic Super PAC, or their licenses could be at risk.

Priorities USA chairman Guy Cecil tweeted that the cease-and-desist letter about its ad was a big boon to his cause. 


The campaign said that the ad, which combines audio of the President downplaying the seriousness of the virus at the outset, falsely says that Trump called the coronavirus a 'hoax.'

The ad includes audio of the President saying "the corona virus" then almost immediately another audio clip saying "this is their new hoax." In the hoax reference, Trump was referring to Democrats saying he was politicizing the virus. Among the other audio clips are the President saying "one day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear," and "we really think we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum," while a graph shows coronavisus cases spiking. 

In the letter to stations, the campaign said the ad was patently false and misleading, and pointed to various stories saying Trump did not call the virus a hoax, including in The Washington Post, an outlet Trump routinely calls fake, and ended with a threat:

"[S]hould you fail to immediately cease broadcasting PUSA’s ad “Exponential Threat”, Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. will have no choice but to pursue all legal remedies available to it in law and in equity; 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."

And what might that be: "[Y]our failure to remove this deceptive ad may be “probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility” that could put your station’s license in jeopardy," said the Trump campaign. 

The Trump campaign said that unlike candidate committees, the PAC does not have a right to "command the use of broadcast facilities," and that the station "has a responsibility to “protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.'"

Under the FCC's equal time rules, broadcasters are not required to make airtime available to candidates, but if they do they must make it available to all candidates. Those licensees "shall have no power of censorship over the material broadcast by any such candidate." But Super PAC ads, which are not run by individual candidates, have no such equal time censorship shield, the point the campaign was making. 

According to The Hill, the Trump campaign also asked Twitter to put its new "manipulated media" label on videos claiming he called the virus a hoax, but Twitter has not done so. 

Related: FCC's Carr Slams Twitter for 'Mainpulated' Tag on Biden Video 

Twitter did put a "manipulated" tag on a video tweeted by White House media director Dan Scavino that combined audio clips to make it appear that Biden was saying that the Democrats couldn't win and Trump would be re-elected. 

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.