Trump Campaign’s Most Dangerous Move Yet — Likely Suing Over Devastating Ads
The tweet below, as well as the one pictured in the caption, have been making the rounds on Twitter, and on television. I have confirmed that the Trump campaign has sent a “cease and desist” letter with the threat of litigation to Priorities USA – a Biden-supporting Super-Pac over the ad below, which uses Trump’s own words:
Trump has filed a second Cease and Desist Order to stop this ad which uses his words to prove dereliction of duty during the #COVID19 Crisis.
— Southern Sister Resister (@ResisterSis20) April 1, 2020
It is a devastating ad, using Trump’s own words.
The “cease and desist” part rests upon the laughable assertion that the ad takes Trump’s words out of context, Trump only said the Democrats’ reaction was a hoax, not the virus. If the ad stretches the truth or alters the context “somewhat,” it will still not be even close to what Trump has done. But the Trump campaign is going forward anyway.
A letter will never get anyone to stop anything (unless it’s something that truly could be stopped in court). But there is also the threat to sue any station that runs the ad and Priorities USA itself, and that’s a problem. The Trump campaign will sue some station, somewhere, about the ad, I can near guarantee. It is not that the Trump campaign would win, they surely wouldn’t, even in front of most Trump judges. Trump has implied far worse in his ads and been far more deceptive.
The problem is that threats of lawsuits create a chilling effect in running the ad because stations don’t want to spend a ton of money defending themselves and may say it’s just not worth it. Regular readers know that I said the same thing about Trump’s “libel” suits against the New York Times and Washington Post, both filed within the last couple of months.
A good summary of the argument is provided by Slate, and it’s terrifying:
And therein lies the true danger here: not that stations will actually lose in court, but that they grow so afraid of legal action that they self-censor. Trump is already trying to scare reporters out of covering him accurately; he has threatened to sue several news organizations, including CNN, and his campaign filed a frivolous libel suit against the New York Times. Media outlets are already on alert that Trump might draw them into expensive legal battles. In light of Wednesday’s letter, TV stations are also now aware of that risk. They may refuse to run ads that contain factually debatable criticisms of the president for fear of a costly lawsuit. Meanwhile, they will all continue to give airtime to the president’s incessant lies, because they are newsworthy. Trump can use the power of the pulpit to tilt the playing field in his favor. He could successfully monopolize the marketplace of ideas in the midst of his reelection campaign.
You know that Trump is desperate to control the news media. He IS going to do this, be assured. Again, he’ll do it to at least intimidate stations from running other ads in the future, believing it’s better to run safer ads than the most devastating against Trump, out of fear.
If he wins, he will do far worse in the second term. A second term might well be near lawless.
I suggest you link the ad, and this column to send everywhere. Most people understand that Trump has always been about bluster and threats to sue about anything he doesn’t like. I doubt most understand the underlying motive, but they should, and will upon learning.
[email protected] and on Twitter @MiciakZoom