President Trump is running a new campaign ad that includes a very brief clip of CNN personalities supporting him for actions he’s taken during the coronavirus.
So, CNN promptly sent him a cease-and-desist letter.
In the ad, titled “American Comeback,” Trump is seen at the State of the Union saying, “My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat.”
The ad bounces through critics of Trump’s initial ban on travel from China, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who says Trump is guilty of “xenophobia.”
Then there’s a brief clip showing CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussing social distancing efforts that were crafted early on by the federal government and put into effect by most states.
“Is it accurate that if these steps had not been put in place … it could have been 2 million people down here in the United States?” asks Blitzer, as the screen cuts to a Chinese airliner and an airport screen that says “cancelled.”
“Yes,” Gupta says.
CNN claims that’s deceptive.
“A lawyer for CNN’s parent company WarnerMedia has written a cease-and-desist letter to President Trump’s re-election campaign over the misleading contents of a new campaign ad,” the network announced Monday. “WarnerMedia says the Trump ad is misusing CNN news coverage in a way that’s ‘false, misleading and deceptive.’”
CNN‘s Brian Stelter, a longtime Trump hater, said the Blizter/Gupta clips implies the pair are referring to Trump’s travel ban instead of the social distancing measures — even though Trump never mentions his travel ban.
The ad takes a segment from CNN’s “The Situation Room” out of context. On March 30, anchor Wolf Blitzer asked Dr. Sanjay Gupta, “Well, is it accurate that if these steps had not been put in place, the stay at home orders, the social distancing orders, as the President said yesterday, it could have been 2 million people down here in the United States?”
Gupta responded, “I mean, you know, these are all models, Wolf. It’s a little tough to say, but, you know, if you talk about something that is spreading, you know, very robustly throughout a community. You know, two to three times more contagious than flu, and up to 10 times, perhaps even more than that, more deadly than flu, then yes.”
Blitzer’s question was about “stay at home orders” and social distancing, but in the campaign ad, that portion of his question was omitted. After Blitzer and Gupta are shown on screen, the ad cuts to taped video that invokes Trump’s restrictions on travel from China, like an airport screen showing cancelled flights.
Rick McMurtry, associate general counsel for WarnerMedia, said in the letter sent to Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh. “CNN hereby demands that you discontinue airing the advertisement with the CNN clip that has been distorted in such a way as to mislead the public.”
The ad, he said, “purposely and deceptively edits the clip to imply that Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were crediting the President’s travel ban policy issued in January for saving millions of American lives, when in fact Mr. Blitzer and Dr. Gupta were discussing recently implemented social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders issued by state and local governments.”