President Trump’s re-election campaign is suing the largest Democratic super PAC for running an ad that it says misrepresents the president’s remarks about the coronavirus.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, alleges that Priorities USA, the main super PAC backing former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential bid, “knowingly and intentionally” manipulated audio clips of Trump to make it seem as if the president had called the coronavirus a “hoax” and downplayed the threat posed by the pandemic.
“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. “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.”
The Trump campaign is seeking unspecified monetary damages and legal fees in the case.
Priorities USA did not immediately comment on the Trump campaign’s complaint.
It’s not the first time Trump’s reelection campaign is suing over the ad. The campaign filed a complaint against a Wisconsin television station in April for continuing to air the spot after receiving a cease-and-desist letter.
The TV station, WJFW-NBC, has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing that it infringes on protected political speech by broadcasters.
The Trump campaign also previously threatened legal action against television stations that ran the ad in other states, including Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The ad in question features graphics showing the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rising while playing clips of Trump talking about the virus. The complaint filed by the Trump campaign takes particular aim at part of the ad in which the president uses the word “hoax.”
Trump and his aides insist that the president never called the coronavirus a “hoax,” arguing that he was referring to Democrats’ efforts to politicize the virus.
Priorities USA said that it stands by the ad, noting that it uses Trump’s own words.
“Priorities USA Action successfully intervened as a defendant in the lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign against a small Wisconsin TV station in a desperate attempt to prevent Americans from hearing the truth about Trump’s failed response to the coronavirus pandemic which has cost over 120,000 American lives and millions of jobs,” Guy Cecil, the chairman of Priorities USA, said in a statement.
“We stand by the facts in our ad that uses Trump’s own words. We won’t back down from holding Trump accountable for failing America,” he added.
Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has faced sharp criticism in recent months. He initially downplayed the threat posed by the virus, comparing it to the seasonal flu. He eventually called for states to shut down to contain the virus.
His response to the coronavirus and the resulting economic fallout have emerged as sore spots in his bid for a second term in the White House, with recent polls showing his support waning and Biden extending his lead in the race.