(New York, NY) – President Trump’s re-election campaign filed a defamation lawsuit against a Wisconsin NBC affiliate for airing a political ad, sponsored by democratic super PAC Priorities USA that includes edited audio of the president calling coronavirus a hoax. PEN America today said the suit is yet another example of the president’s ongoing efforts to censor speech he dislikes.

“The president’s new suit is clearly an attempt to bully a station into removing an ad the president doesn’t like,” said Nora Benavidez, director of U.S. free expression programs at PEN America. “Earlier this year, President Trump sued three news outlets for their coverage of his relations with Ukraine and stories about Russia. Now, the president is taking aim at a local NBC affiliate in Wisconsin that aired an ad of Trump downplaying the COVID-19 threat. The legal merits of the case are paltry. Simply put, this case is a double-down on the president’s unconstitutional attacks to censor speech he dislikes. While President Trump’s effort to use the rule of law to bully and retaliate against the media may not be new, it remains a dangerous assault on the First Amendment.”

Courts around the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have previously ruled that the First Amendment protects news outlets in defamation and libel lawsuits. PEN America has repeatedly stood against the Trump administration in its attempt to silence writers and reporters, most notably in a lawsuit filed in 2018.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892