CNN has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Trump campaign over an ad featuring footage from CNN’s coverage of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic that the network claims is “deceptive” because it suggests that a CNN analyst agreed that President Trump’s actions saved potentially millions of lives.
“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.'”
“My administration will take all necessary steps to safeguard our citizens from this threat,” Trump says at the start of the new campaign ad, a coronavirus response-themed ad released Sunday titled “American Comeback” (video below).
The ad then cuts to various critics of Trump’s initial ban on travel from China, including presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who accuses Trump of “xenophobia.”
That criticism is followed by a clip from CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussing the social distancing steps recommended by the federal government and taken by the 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, while images of an airport screen showing “cancelled” flights and a Chinese airliner flash on the screen. “Yes,” says Gupta.
But, as CNN‘s Brian Stelter explains, the network maintains that the framing and the editing of that exchange is “misleading,” giving the impression that Blitzer and Gupta are specifically referencing Trump’s travel ban rather than the broader social distancing measures recommended by his administration. Stelter reports:
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.
The ad “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,” Rick McMurtry, associate general counsel for WarnerMedia, wrote in a 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.”
Murtaugh responded by standing by the ad and slamming CNN for “once again” finding a reason to block a Trump campaign ad. The network “has now rejected multiple Trump ads that are demonstrably accurate,” said Murtaugh, as reported by Stelter.
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