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Trump Inc – a podcast series from ProPublica and WNYC – #58 – Why is Trump’s Campaign Suing a Small Wisconsin TV Station?

19/08/2020

July 24 2020

About this episode – Trump Team Online

This year, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign filed defamation lawsuits against three of the country’s most prominent news outlets: The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN. Then it filed another suit against a somewhat lower-profile news organization: northern Wisconsin’s WJFW-TV, which serves the 134th-largest market in the country.

The Trump campaign sued the station over what it claims is a false and defamatory ad WJFW  aired that showed Trump downplaying the threat of the coronavirus as a line tracking new COVID-19 infections ticks up and up on the screen.

Dozens of stations ran the ad. But the Trump campaign chose to sue just NBC-affiliate WJFW, which is owned by a relatively small company that only has two other local TV stations, both in Bangor, Maine. The campaign did not initially sue the political organization that produced the ad. That group later joined the case as a defendant.

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About the series

Podcasts are a good form for presenting the surreality of this era, Eric Umansky, an editor at ProPublica, told me recently. “You can capture the absurdity in ways that you can’t in text,” he said. The excellent investigative podcast that he works on, “Trump Inc.,” from WNYC and ProPublica, began in February and concludes next week. Its premise is at once straightforward and audacious: it asks big, specific questions about Donald Trump’s famously mysterious business dealings, including those concerning possible connections between his Presidency and his profits; investigates them; and encourages listeners to pitch in and help. It features several personable, savvy-sounding reporters: Andrea Bernstein and Ilya Marritz, of WNYC, and Jesse Eisinger and Heather Vogell, of ProPublica, and it has a collaborative spirit. Reporters from other outlets (including The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson) offer additional information and insights. One episode features David Fahrenthold, of the Washington Post, answering listener questions; another was inspired by a comment that Fahrenthold made about Trump suing local municipalities in which he had businesses; a listener tip resulted in a mini-episode about Trump commissioning golf-tee markers with the Presidential seal on them. Umansky told me that one “superfan” listener “went to the courthouse in Westchester to look up cases for us.” Everybody gets to be a detective. Or, as the show’s Web site puts it, “Help Us Dive Into the Swamp.” 

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