President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign filed a defamation suit on Wednesday against Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
According to the Washington Examiner, the court filing argues that the committee produced political advertisements inaccurately portraying Trump’s remarks about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While the president’s partisan opponents have long complained that he is not taking the public health crisis seriously enough, Priorities USA, the nation’s largest Democratic super PAC, is being accused of outright deception, The Hill reports.
“Knowingly and intentionally false”
The Trump campaign filed its lawsuit this week in a Wisconsin court, seeking damages and legal fees related to “knowingly and intentionally false” ads, which have been airing since March.
Two spots — “Exponential Threat” and “One Week Later” — are cited in the complaint. Both feature Trump talking about the virus against a backdrop of ominous music and a graph showing a spike in the nation’s infection rate.
“The coronavirus, this is their new hoax,” the president can be heard saying as matching subtitles flash on the screen.
In reality, Trump never uttered those words together as a sentence. The audio was spliced from separate comments during a South Carlina campaign speech in which he called the Democratic Party’s politicization of the coronavirus as “their new hoax.”
“It is abundantly clear that Priorities USA supported fabricated digital content in a flagrant attempt to defame President Trump and a desperate attempt to save Joe Biden’s sinking campaign,” Jenna Ellis, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, said, according to the Examiner. “As a result of these intentionally deceitful actions, the Trump campaign is using the force of law to end circulation of these erroneous and defamatory ads.”
“Only Mr. Trump’s own words”
Prior to the latest court action, the campaign sued a Wisconsin NBC affiliate in April following a cease-and-desist request over the disputed advertisements. Priorities USA, however, reportedly responded to those letters by expanding its purchase of ad space and encouraging local stations to continue broadcasting them.
Lawyers for the political action committee submitted a letter asserting that the ads use “only Mr. Trump’s own words” and serve only to shorten his comments “to remove extraneous material,” going on to argue that the spots do not claim to present Trump’s “precise” words as a single sentence.
As for the Trump campaign, it argues that the ads feature “audio of candidate Trump saying those words together, as a sentence” and that the intent “is confirmed but the text running on the screen putting those words together, as a sentence.”
It will now be up to a court to decide whether Priorities USA is liable for damages claimed in the suit. In any case, the contents of these ads serve as a reminder of how deceptive campaign ads can get.