March 30, 2020

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Many of you are stuck at home like me. So you’ve probably seen this ad from a super PAC targeting Donald Trump. 

The ad from progressive super PAC Priorities USA slams President Donald Trump for downplaying the virus that has infected tens of thousands of people in the United States. It juxtaposes quotes from Trump with a graph that traces the exponential growth of coronavirus cases.

The ad drew sharp criticism from the Trump campaign, which sent a cease and desist letter to TV stations calling the ad “patently false, misleading, and deceptive.”

The ad charts the rise in coronavirus cases in the U.S. from Jan. 20 to March 22. It ends with a clip of Trump from a March 13 White House press conference, saying, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all.” The Trump quotes featured in the ad are all real.

But the campaign’s letter to TV stations says the ad “stitched together fragments from multiple speeches” to give the impression that Trump called the coronavirus a “hoax.”

Priorities USA responded by expanding their ad buy, throwing another $600,000 dollars behind its initial $6 million investment, according to a press release. Priorities USA spokesman Josh Schwerin told us the organization stands by the facts in the ad.

Overall, the ad splices together many audio clips that were clearly made at different times. The clips don’t necessarily align with the rise in cases that the ad shows.

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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