Trump Threatens To Revoke FCC Licenses Over New Ad


Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, the pro-Biden super PAC Priorities USA has come out with a video ad airing on stations across the country that documents Trump’s consistent failures to take the crisis seriously, even as cases and deaths in the U.S. accumulated. Now, the Trump campaign has targeted those stations that have been airing the ad with a cease-and-desist letter, which suggests that FCC broadcast licenses could be in jeopardy if the stations don’t stop with the broadcasts. To be clear, that means that the president’s re-election campaign is attempting to use the powers of his office to silence critics.

The ad simply overlays audio of a slew of Trump’s statements atop a running tally of the number of confirmed U.S. Coronavirus cases, which has sharply risen to almost 70,000. The ad’s selection includes Trump’s derision of concern over the Coronavirus as Democrats’ “new hoax.” The Trump campaign lawyers suggest that the ad falsely suggests that Trump called the Coronavirus itself a “hoax,” but even the soundbites in the clip aren’t that far off from what he actually said.

At a South Carolina rally, he insisted:

‘Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus, you know that right?.. this is their new hoax.’

He didn’t say — “now let’s be clear that I’m not referring to the virus itself as a hoax.” In fact, he’s turned accusing his opponents of hoaxes into an entire worldview — any situation in which opponents may criticize the president automatically becomes an apparent hoax to him. His defenders’ claim that he’s presented some kind of orderly defense that the ad unfairly chops up is ludicrous and incorrect.

The Trump campaign’s lawyers claim, in their newly available letter addressed to television stations:

‘Your station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing [the ad] immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements, to serve the public interest, and to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation… your station has a responsibility to ‘protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.’.. your failure to remove this deceptive ad … could put your station’s license in jeopardy.’

The only reason that suggestion has major weight is because of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Trump campaign lawyers are trying to leverage Trump’s presidency to silence his critics, which follows a similar attempt by a pro-Trump super PAC to pressure stations into taking the ad off the air. There’s no apparent indication that stations actually intend to fall in line.

In reality, Trump keeps fumbling his way through Coronavirus response.

Despite the continued spread of the virus within the U.S. — which has now infected almost 70,000 Americans and killed more than 1,000 Americans and counting — Trump has suggested that he wants to see a return to normal social and business life within weeks. That flies in the face of counsel from public health professionals including within his own administration, who have warned of the continued dangers from the Coronavirus, which could inflict more significantly more carnage if allowed to spread unchecked as Trump has been trying to make happen in an apparent attempt to protect the economy for his re-election chances.