Unite the Country, a super PAC supporting Joe Biden, released an ad late Tuesday night that was critical of Mr. Trump’s stewardship of the response to the virus, highlighting the president’s previous statements minimizing the crisis. The ad includes a narrator saying, “Donald Trump didn’t create the coronavirus, but he is the one who called hoax.”
On Wednesday, the super PAC said in a tweet that Fox News had rejected the ad and would not allow it to air on the network.
Tom Lowell, the channel’s vice president and managing editor of news, said in a statement, “Fox News declined the spot proposed by Unite the Country because it contains a statement that has been widely disputed by independent sources as being misleading or false.”
At issue was the ad’s reference to comments Mr. Trump made about “a hoax.” While critics said that Mr. Trump had called the virus itself a hoax, the president and his supporters argued that he was referring to Democrats’ criticism of his response to the virus. Several independent fact checkers had agreed that Mr. Trump did not call the virus itself a hoax, though he made many other statements playing down the threat it posed.
Networks do occasionally reject campaign ads from running on their network, either citing known false statements or technicalities (like a missing “I approve this message” disclaimer). In September, CNN refused to air an ad by the Trump campaign regarding Mr. Biden and Ukraine, citing a similar reason about misleading statements in the ad.
Officials at Fox News said they had turned down several ads this year from groups across the political spectrum, including an ad from the Trump campaign about impeachment that claimed Democrats were carrying out a “coup.”
Unite the Country said its ad would still run on other networks, including CNN, MSNBC, NBC and ABC, and would be backed by “seven figures.” And it will be on air soon: The group just made a $200,000 ad reservation on CNN’s national network to begin today, according to the tracking firm Advertising Analytics.