NBCU Refuses to Air Trump Campaign Ad Aimed at Joe Biden
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’s NBCUniversal won’t continue to air a Trump re-election campaign ad on any of its cable networks unless changes are made to the spot, according to a person familiar with NBCU.

The 30-second commercial contains an unsubstantiated claim about former Vice

Joe Biden’s

role in the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The ad, which CNN rejected last week, alleges Mr. Biden, who is vying for the Democratic nomination, promised Ukraine $1 billion to fire a prosecutor looking into a Ukraine gas company with ties to his son Hunter Biden.

The ad also accuses “media lap dogs” of aiding the Democrats with their impeachment efforts and features a montage of cable-news personalities and correspondents, such as CNN’s Don Lemon, Chris Cuomo and Jim Acosta and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

It couldn’t be learned what changes NBCU requested. The Trump campaign didn’t make the changes, the person said. Instead, it submitted another re-electioncampaign ad called “Changing Things,”which has subsequently aired on NBCU properties.

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“Our ads are 100 percent accurate,” said

Tim Murtaugh,

a Trump campaign spokesman. “The discussions with had nothing to do with the facts as presented in the ad. We have no further comment on those conversations.”

President Trump is facingan impeachment inquiry that stems in part from his dealings with Ukraineand reports that he withheld aid to Ukraine while he was pressing the country to investigate candidate Joe Biden.

NBCU’s decision was made after the company aired the spot one time on its cable-news network MSNBC and on its entertainment network Bravo, the person familiar with the matter said.

CNN declined to air the spot because it didn’t meet the network’s ad standards.  “In addition to disparaging CNN and its journalists, the ad makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets, including CNN,” the company said.

The moves by NBCU and CNN highlight the different standards that exist between media companies and tech platforms such as


Facebook denied a request from Mr. Biden’s campaign to take downa nearly identical re-election campaign ad, a move that reignited the scrutiny the social-media giant has come under for its role in spreading misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the ad wasn’t eligible for fact checking because Mr. Trump is a candidate, a position that the company said is longstanding.

“In mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,”

Katie Harbath,

Facebook’s elections policy , wrote to the Biden campaign in response to a complaint about the ad. “However politicians, like everyone else on Facebook, must continue to comply with our terms, including our advertising policies.”

earlier reported Facebook’s denial of Mr. Biden’s request.

Not all media companies have declined to air the spot. It has aired on broadcast networks such as CBS and Fox, according to iSpot., an ad-tracking firm.

Unlike Facebook and national cable-TV companies, broadcast networks have little wiggle room when it comes to political advertising because they are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC prohibits broadcasters from censoring or refusing to air ads that come from legally qualified political candidates, according to the FCC. Even if a candidate’s political ad has false claims, broadcast networks aren’t allowed to refuse to air the spot, according to the rules, which also apply to local broadcast stations.

“Effectively, candidates can say whatever they want and broadcast networks must air it,” said

David Oxenford,

a partner at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP. Mr. Oxenford points out that the requirement is written into the Communications Act. Because Congress prohibits broadcasters from censoring such ads, broadcasters have immunity from liability arising from the content of such ads, he added.

Although national cable networks don’t have to follow FCC regulations, several networks—such as


’s Investigation Discovery and


’s Fox News—have also aired the contentious spot, iSpot data show.

“We are not in the business of censoring ads from candidates on either side of the aisle,” Fox News said.

Fox Corp. and parent News Corp share common ownership.  Meanwhile, Discovery’s internal guidelines state the company accepts candidate ads from all political parties, according to a person familiar with Discovery.

—Alex Leary contributed to this article.

Write toSuzanne Vranica at[email protected]

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