The Rhinelander-based WJFW-TV station has filed for a federal court to dismiss a Trump campaign defamation lawsuit over political ads it aired criticizing the president’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The defendant’s briefs filed yesterday argue Trump Victory “seeks to punish a small Wisconsin broadcaster for airing the president’s own words” on the COVID-19 crisis, and that his campaign has filed at least three similar suits against broadcasters and newspapers in the last three months.

“As a matter of law, the advertisement did not defame the Trump Campaign Committee because it was about President Trump, not the committee,” the brief read. “The advertisement is a non-actional expression of the political opinion that President Trump downplayed the danger of the virus while the public health threat increased exponentially.”

Defendants argue statute dictates the Trump campaign must show “actual malice” from WJFW in airing the liberal Priorities USA super PAC ad, which they say cannot be proven.

The president’s campaign previously said it issued a cease-and-desist order to the station on March 25, and then filed a defamation lawsuit against the broadcaster on April 13 after it continued to run the ad.

Priorities USA has promised to help WJFW as a defendant in the case. A spokeswoman for the super PAC declined a request for comment.

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