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The latest strange twist of the Donald Trump presidency finds the major TV networks having to explain why they won’t air an ad that attacks major networks.
The president’s 2020 campaign is escalating a public-relations war with broadcasters over their refusal to air a 30-second TV ad with a “Fake News” banner overlaid on the faces of well-known anchors. On Friday, Trump’s camp trotted out an incendiary “censorship” claim over the refusal of CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS to air its “First 100 Days” clip.
“Apparently, the mainstream media are champions of the First Amendment only when it serves their own political views,” said Lara Trump, the daughter-in-law of the president and a campaign consultant, in a statement. The ad was paid for by the campaign, titled Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.
She added: “Faced with an ad that doesn’t fit their biased narrative, CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC have now all chosen to block our ad. This is an unprecedented act of censorship in America that should concern every freedom-loving citizen.”
Notably, Lara Trump appeared on Fox News with Sean Hannity on Thursday, who played the ad on his show and seconded the claims of the campaign. Fox News did not yet respond to a request for comment on whether it was airing the “100 Days” ad as a paid spot.
Broadcast networks have maintained that if the banner is removed, the ad will run. “Consistent with our policies, we have agreed to accept the ad if the inaccurate graphic — which refers to journalists as ‘fake news’ — is corrected,” an NBCUniversal representative stated on Friday.
“CNN requested that the advertiser remove the false graphic that says the mainstream media is ‘fake news.’ The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said in a Tuesday statement. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if the graphic is deleted. Those are the facts.”
ABC also said the Trump “100 Days” clip violated its policy. “We rejected the ad because it did not meet our guidelines. We have previously accepted Trump ads and are open to doing so in the future,” stated an ABC representative.
A CBS representative declined comment on the ad.
The ad itself, for the most part, recites a glowing view of President Trump’s agenda before it veers into a photo split of MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos and CBS News’ Scott Pelley with the “Fake News” banner shown.
In recent months, the president has co-opted the term “fake news” and used it as a label for any journalism that he deems critical of his administration or himself as part of a strategy to delegitimize traditional media organizations.
The controversy surrounding the phrase — in tech, advertising and media circles — gained widespread discussion last fall over the rise of demonstrably false posts distributed widely over social media in the lead-up to the November election.
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