Some Republicans are running so far away from their party’s nominee that they are threatening to sue TV stations for running ads that suggest they support Donald Trump.
Just two weeks before Election Day, five Republicans ― Reps. Bob Dold (R-Ill.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Jolly (R-Fla.), John Katko (R-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican running for an open seat that’s currently occupied by his brother ― contend that certain commercials paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee provide false or misleading information by connecting them to the GOP nominee.
Trump is so terrible, these Republicans are essentially arguing, that tying them to him amounts to defamation.
All five Republicans have, at some point, said they don’t support Trump. And all five have a bit of a case: The DCCC ads do use some creativity to tie them to Trump.
It’s somewhat standard practice for candidates to threaten TV stations with legal action in an effort to get ads pulled. The Federal Communications Commission has said that stations have some legal responsibility ― when dealing with ads from independent groups ― to eliminate ads with “false, misleading, or deceptive” content. But legal action is rare. Mostly, candidates count on TV stations to take down such ads.
The DCCC says none of the stations pulled the spots, though some ads’ runs have already ended.
Either way, the ads all leave an impression that the candidate they’re targeting supports Trump, even when the candidate himself has said otherwise. Whether that’s misleading enough for legal action is someone else’s call.