By Shereen Siewert
A defamation lawsuit against a Rhinelander TV station filed by the Trump campaign has been dismissed and cannot be refiled.
In March, The Trump Campaign Committee sent letters to broadcasters in Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota and Pennsylvania demanding they stop airing an ad critical of the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. The letter suggested the ads “could put (the) station’s license in jeopardy.”
Then in April the Trump Campaign Committee filed suit against WJF-NBC in Price County Circuit Court. The lawsuit alleged the ad defamed the president by misrepresenting his use of the word “hoax” during a Feb. 28 rally. The rally was held one day before the CDC announced the first COVID-19 death in the U.S.
The ad from Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action quoted outgoing President Trump saying “We have it totally under control,” and “One day it’s like a miracle, it will disappear” as a graph showed the rising number of coronavirus cases. The campaign claimed the ad was defamatory.
WJFW removed the case to federal court in late April.
In a brief filed Nov. 9, a lawyer representing WJFW argued that the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election means there is no longer a “live controversy.” No decision of the court, WJFW’s attorney argued, could redress the “injury” that the ad allegedly inflicted on the campaign.
“The Committee’s alleged injury is now beyond the judicial system’s power to remedy, and as a result the Committee lacks standing to maintain this action,” wrote Brady Williamson, an attorney with Madison-based Godfrey & Kahn.
Federal court records show the Trump campaign agreed to drop the suit on Nov. 13.
WJFW is owned by Northland Television, LLC.