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CNN won’t run two Trump campaign ads, citing ‘demonstrably false’ claims

A Donald Trump supporter holds a "2020 Keep America Great!" hat while standing in line to enter an event in Florida on Thursday in which the president signed an executive order on Medicare. (Eve Edelheit/Bloomberg News)

CNN said Thursday that it will not run two Trump campaign ads because they disparage the network’s journalists and make “demonstrably false” claims while discussing impeachment and pushing unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against former vice president Joe Biden.

The network’s decisions come as the Trump administration escalates its attacks on congressional Democrats’ impeachment efforts and continues to lash out at media organizations it tries to discredit as “fake news.” CNN’s move brought renewed ire from Trump’s reelection campaign, as Communications Director Tim Murtaugh called the news network a “Democrat public relations firm” that “spends all day protecting Joe Biden.”

The first rejected ad, posted last week to YouTube, suggests the president is being unfairly scrutinized for pressing Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter. The ad accuses Trump’s potential 2020 opponent of corruption, continuing a favorite talking point of the president and his supporters amid an impeachment inquiry and concerns Trump used his office to create trouble for a political rival.

A quick guide to Trump’s false claims about Ukraine and the Bidens

The 30-second commercial claims Biden promised Ukraine $1 billion to fire a prosecutor looking into “his son’s company.” Hunter Biden sat on the board of energy firm Burisma but does not own it, and while Biden was key in the Obama administration’s efforts to remove Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin by using U.S. aid as leverage, no evidence indicates Biden sought to help his son. Widely criticized for his handling of corruption cases, Shokin was eventually voted out of office.

The ad goes on to criticize another common Trump target by accusing “media lap dogs” of aiding Democrats’ impeachment efforts. It depicts prominent journalists bashed by Trump: CNN hosts Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

CNN said in a statement that “in addition to disparaging CNN and its journalists, the ad makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN.”

Murtaugh maintained the Biden ad is accurate and was “reviewed by counsel.”

Another 30-second video titled “Coup” and released Wednesday has been rejected as well, CNN said Thursday.

That ad decries Democrats’ impeachment efforts as an attempt to “undo the election regardless of facts” and attack Trump “by any means necessary.” It also accuses Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, of fabricating evidence during a discussion of a whistleblower complaint against Trump, a claim also broadcast from the president’s Twitter account. (Schiff has said his paraphrase of Trump’s controversial call with Ukraine’s president “was meant to be at least part in parody.”)

The impeachment push is “nothing short of a coup and it must be stopped,” the Trump ad declares.

CNN cited similar concerns about false statements in declining the newer commercial, saying the spot makes claims about the whistleblower complaint against the president that the intelligence community inspector general has debunked.

“In addition, it is inaccurate to use the word ‘coup’ to describe a constitutionally prescribed legal process,” the company stated, echoing critics who slammed Trump’s comparison of impeachment to an opposition group’s violent, illegal overthrow of a government.

Trump’s reelection campaign did not immediately provide comment on CNN’s decision about the second ad.

Another commercial submitted by the Trump campaign called “Changing Things” has been accepted, CNN said.

Networks have rejected presidential campaign commercials before. Last year, channels including Fox News — the president’s favored news network — nixed an ad that CNN and others called racist for its depiction of immigrants as “dangerous illegal criminals.”

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