Pro-Joe Biden Super PAC Says It’s Buying More Airtime For Coronavirus Ad That Trump Campaign Wants Pulled

Donald Trump
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UPDATE: After President Donald Trump’s campaign sent cease and desist letters to TV stations to try to get them to stop airing an ad criticizing his coronavirus response, the super PAC behind the spot is buying up more airtime.

Priorities USA Action said that they are expanding their buy into Arizona, with a $600,000 outlay. The ad still running on stations in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to Priorities USA. They already announced a $6 million buy in battleground states.

Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement that “the fact that Trump is going to such great lengths to keep the American people from hearing his own words adds to the urgency of communicating them far and wide.”

In the letter to stations, an attorney for the Trump campaign warned that the outlets “could put your station’s license in jeopardy” by continuing to air the spots. But legal experts say that stations are given wide leeway when it comes to their First Amendment right to political speech.

A spokesperson for one station that has been running the ad, WTSP-TV in St. Petersburg, FL, said that if they receive an inquiry to review a political ad, they have a process that includes going back to the advertiser for additional justification “regarding the ad’s claims or contents.’

“In the interest of fairness and providing space for a diversity of opinions, we lean towards facilitating speech unless there is a strong justification for rejecting a particular ad,” the spokesperson said.

Another station group, Hearst Television, is still airing the spot.

The spot features a graph mapping coronavirus cases in the U.S. over the past two months, with audio of comments Trump has made downplaying the threat of the virus.

Trump has previously suggested that the FCC should look at NBC’s broadcast license, after he was upset over some of the news division’s reporting. Broadcast licenses are granted to individual stations, not networks themselves.

PREVIOUSLY: Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has fired off a cease and desist letter to TV stations, warning them to stop airing an ad from a pro-Joe Biden super PAC that is a scathing attack on the president’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The spot features a graph mapping coronavirus cases in the U.S. over the past two months, with audio of comments Trump has made downplaying the threat of the virus.

In their letter to stations, the Trump campaign says that the Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, “stitched together fragments from multiple speeches by President Trump to fraudulently and maliciously imply that President Trump called the coronavirus outbreak a ‘hoax.’ They contend that Trump was in fact “talking about the Democrat’s politicization of the outbreak when he used the word ‘hoax.'” noted that Trump told reporters the next day that he was not calling the virus a hoax, but the Democrats’ response to it.

At a Feb. 28 rally, Trump said, “They tried the impeachment hoax. That was on a perfect conversation. They tried anything, they tried it over and over, they’ve been doing it since he got in. It’s all turning, they lost. It’s all turning, think of it, think of it. And this is their new hoax.”

While the campaign is threatening to take legal action, it’s just as likely an attempt to try to call attention to Trump’s effort to refute the spot.

The Priorities USA Action ad does not explicitly say that Trump called the virus a “hoax.” It runs audio of Trump saying “This is their new hoax,” without identifying who he was talking about, as the number of coronavirus cases rises on the graph.

Josh Schwerin, senior strategist for Priorities USA, wrote on Twitter, “The Trump campaign is trying to bully TV stations into taking our ad down. They are not going to be successful because it is literally Trump in his own words. Let’s make sure as many people as possible see this ad.”

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