- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 26, 2020

President Trump’s re-election campaign threatened legal action Wednesday against television stations that broadcast an ad highlighting his past comments about the novel coronavirus.

Alex W. Cannon, a lawyer for the Trump campaign, asked TV stations to immediately cease-and-desist from airing the ad or else risk facing “costly and time-consuming litigation.”

Produced by Priorities USA, a super PAC that supports Democratic candidates, the 30-second ad consists of a series of recent sound bytes in which Mr. Trump spoke about the coronavirus that can be heard as a chart shows the skyrocketing number of confirmed cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease it causes.

“This is their new hoax,” Mr. Trump is heard saying at the start of the video ad.

And while Mr. Trump remarked as much during a recent event, the lawyer for his re-election campaign claims the “false, misleading and deceptive” ad takes the quote out of context.

“President Trump’s own remarks demonstrate that he was referring to the Democrat’s politicization of the coronavirus outbreak when he used the word ‘hoax’,” reasoned Mr. Cannon.

“When the relevant language is taken in context, it is abundantly clear that President Trump was not calling the outbreak a hoax but rather was referring to the Democrat’s falsification of his record in an attempt to discredit his Presidency,” the lawyer wrote in cease-and-desist letters sent to several TV stations airing the ad.

As of Wednesday evening, Priorities USA’s executive director said the ads were continuing to run.

“Trump’s Super PAC & now Trump’s campaign are resorting to desperate threats to keep Americans from hearing the truth about his failed COVID response that’s put us all at risk,” Patrick McHugh said on Twitter. “The ads are still running & @prioritiesUSA will continue ensuring voters hear the truth.”

“The Trump campaign is trying to bully TV stations into taking our ad down,” added John Schwein, a senior strategist and communications director for the super PAC. “They are not going to be successful because it is literally Trump in his own words.”

The cease-and-desist letters were sent to local TV stations in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the Trump campaign —five battlegrounds states that could prove to be pivotal in the president’s bid to be re-elected.

A version of the video uploaded to Twitter has been viewed around 7 million times as of Thursday morning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has documented more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19 in the country since January 20, and Johns Hopkins University has placed the domestic death toll from the disease at close to 1,000.

Mr. Trump has previously said the outbreak is “totally under control,” Priorities USA noted in the ad.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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