I’m feeling very sad for New Yorkers right now, my friends and colleagues who are living in the epicenter of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. What’s happening there is tragic, and while we have our own problems here in Georgia, it pales by comparison to what New York faces.
I don’t blame President Trump for the outbreak. But his indifference early on and his downplaying the threat in the ensuing weeks are an epic failure in leadership. And now he wants New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state leaders to be nice to him if they want to see federal assistance.
Trump is on the record telling Americans not to worry, be happy, and the pro-Biden Super PAC Priorities USA used his own words in a devastating television ad running in key swing states. It concludes with the now infamous Trump statement denying any responsibility for the administration’s response to coronavirus.
I know there will be many other campaign ads that use the president’s words to indict him, but this one hit a nerve at the pro-Trump America First super PAC. Lawyers there issued letters to TV stations demanding they stop airing the ad on the grounds that “your station has a responsibility to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.”
That’s pretty rich in light of Trump’s 15,000-plus false and misleading statements as documented by the Washington Post, but the letter to the station contained an even more ominous threat. “(Y)our station has an obligation to cease and desist from airing (the ad) immediately to comply with FCC licensing requirements, to serve the public interest, and to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation.”
Thus, the PAC lawyers are invoking an agency under the president’s jurisdiction. “(Y)our failure to remove this deceptive ad,” the letter says, “could put your station’s license in jeopardy.”
Yeah, nice little TV station you got there. It’d be a shame if anything happened to it.
Sound familiar? It’s a pattern Trump has followed his entire adult life to avoid accountability. In this case, he would use the power of the presidency to squelch free speech and, in this case, the truth. He did say what he said and the virus has gone mostly unchecked. For those suffering from the disease, there are life and death consequences.
Be safe you New Yorkers. You are gritty and resilient and have weathered many storms before. We are with you.
Kevin Foley owns KEF Media in Atlanta.