POLITICS

McMullin sues super PAC, three Utah news stations for ad he says is defamatory

Oct 4, 2022, 5:55 PM | Updated: Oct 6, 2022, 2:44 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Senate candidate Evan McMullin is suing a political action committee for creating a “doctored” ad. The lawsuit also names three local news stations which aired the ad after his campaign asked them to stop.

Fox 13, KUTV and ABC 4 are listed as defendants.

On Tuesday, McMullin announced his campaign was suing Club for Growth, a Washington-based super PAC, for producing a campaign ad against McMullin that McMullin says creates a “false quotation” of him from a 2017 panel on a CNN broadcast. Club for Growth backs incumbent Republican Sen. Mike Lee. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll show Lee and McMullin neck and neck.

Court documents list KSL as a news source that aired the ad, but after being contacted by the McMullin Campaign, KSL voluntarily stopped airing it.

“We suspended the ad after receiving a legal complaint about the factual nature of its content. Club for Growth, the organization which provided the ad, provided an updated ad which we are currently running.” Tanya Vea Executive Vice President of Bonneville International and General Manager of KSL TV said.

THE “DOCTORED” AD

According to court documents, Club for Growth launched the advertisement on Sept. 29. The ad showed three women discussing their impressions of McMullin’s quotes from that broadcast.

“The Ad uses video of Mr. McMullin’s face and doctored audio of his voice, in which he is portrayed as making the statement, ‘The Republican base is racist. These bigots!'” reads court documents.

One of the three women in the ad comments on the quote, saying, “‘What Evan McMullin says – that doesn’t feel kind. He’s derogatory toward a huge group of people.’”

McMullin’s lawyers state that the audio was doctored to give a false impression of McMullin to viewers, implying he “condemned the Republican Party and its broad base as racists, and misleadingly invites viewers to draw the same conclusions about Mr. McMullin.”

“Mr. McMullin never said this. On the contrary, his public work has been centered on earning the trust of Republicans and conservatives in this state and throughout the country. Mr. McMullin does not hold to the sentiment wrongfully put in his mouth by defendants and did not ever express that view,” the lawsuit states.

According to court documents, the false quotation was pulled from an Aug. 2017 CNN broadcast where McMullin participated in a panel commenting on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed while counter-protesting a white nationalist rally.

During the panel, McMullin spoke about some members of the Republican Party attacking Republican leaders for anti-racist statements.

The court documents provided the full statement that McMullin used in the CNN broadcast.

“Not all Republicans of course are racist. I was raised by Republicans, who are not at all, and we welcome Americans of all backgrounds and are not at all like this… but there is an element of the Republican base that is racist. And our leaders are afraid to stand up to them because, if they do so, they’ll be criticized, and they’ll potentially lose votes.”

“McMullin later went on to say that ‘we need leaders, especially on the Republican and conservative side these days who will serve the country. And serving the country means standing up to these bigots,’” according to court documents.

McMullin’s lawyers accuse Club for Growth of deliberately doctoring the CNN footage and audio to make it seem that McMullin believes the Republican Party base is “generally racist and bigoted.”

THE BROADCAST DEFENDANTS

Court documents state that the McMullin campaign communicated with a representative from each local TV news organization “explaining the falsity of the ad and the deceptive impact it was likely to have on the Utah electorate.” But only KSL TV voluntarily removed the ad.

“The refusal of the Broadcaster Defendants to remove the Ad, though on notice of its falsity and after the expiration of the retraction period provided under Utah law, is evidence of their malice in continuing to broadcast the Ad,” states court documents.

McMullin’s lawyers accuse Fox 13 of acting with the knowledge of the ad’s false quote.

“In its news segment, Fox 13’s host acknowledges that Fox 13 has received numerous comments on the ad, telling his audience that ‘many of you have called us and emailed us about the ad,’ reads court documents.” Despite its news story acknowledging the distortion of Mr. McMullin’s words, Fox 13 has continued to run the ad numerous times, without including the explanatory context featured in its ephemeral news piece.”

KSL5 is listed in the documents as carrying the ad but removing it.

The updated ad includes a different quote from the 2017 CNN broadcast where McMullin says, “Wait a minute, excuse me. I am going to finish. An element of the Republican Party is racist.”

REQUESTED RELIEF

The lawsuit claims that Club for Growth Action purposely timed the ad to cause “maximum damage to Mr. McMullin’s reputation among Utah’s Republicans and conservatives,” and Fox 13, ABC 4, and KUTV understood the damages it would cause if aired.

Because of the claims, McMullin’s lawyers ask for a trial by jury. If a jury rules in favor of the McMullin, they ask to be awarded compensatory damages that would be determined during the trial.

McMullin v Club for Growth Action (Complaint 2022) by Michael Houck on Scribd

RESPONSES FROM PARTIES

McMullin announced the lawsuit in a tweet calling Club for Growth a “shady special interest group backing Mike Lee.” He also urged Fox 13, KUTV and ABC 4 to take down the ad and “do right by Utahns.”

Lynda Cox, president of the Professional Republican Women of Utah, the woman who called McMullin a “charlatan” in the ad, told the Deseret News last week that she stands by her comments in the commercial.

The Club for Growth did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday, according to Deseret News.

On Wednesday, the PAC emailed a statement to the Deseret News from Club for Growth President David McIntosh.

“Evan McMullin will do anything to hide his past statements about Republicans. The fact is he still hasn’t paid his lawyers from his last vanity campaign, so unless his team is working pro-bono, we should expect this stunt to fall apart,” he said.

McMullin owes about $664,000, including more than $500,000 in legal fees, from his failed 2016 presidential campaign, according to FEC records. McMullin said last week he is committed to paying it down.

Among the stations named in the lawsuit, only ABC 4 provided a comment to Deseret News on Tuesday.

Mark Danielson, KTVX vice president and general manager, said in an email that he received the lawsuit Tuesday and the station is reviewing it.

KSL reached out to Lee’s campaign for comment on the ad, and they responded by saying, “coordination between a campaign and a political action committee is prohibited by the FEC. Our campaign has no control over the content of the message or how it is used.”

A CNN fact-check of the Club for Growth ad agrees that McMullin’s claims are “correct.” They also refer to a previous time the super PAC made a “deceptive” ad against a candidate running in a Republican Senate primary in North Carolina in 2021.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Politics

FILE: Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on September 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia. Repu...
FATIMA HUSSEIN, Associated Press

Treasury making Trump taxes available to House committee

The Treasury Department says it has complied with a court order to make former President Donald Trump’s tax returns available to a congressional committee.
2 days ago
[File] Pride Flag...
MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press

Landmark same-sex marriage bill wins Senate passage

The Senate has passed bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriages.
3 days ago
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hea...
Michael Houck

Mitt Romney calls Trump a ‘gargoyle’ after dinner with Ye, Nick Fuentes

Utah Senator Mitt Romney called former President Donald Trump a gargoyle hanging over the Republican party after his dinner with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Ye.
3 days ago
U.S. President Donald Trump listens as Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a news conference at...
JILL COLVIN, Associated Press

Pence calls on Trump to apologize for dinner with antisemite

Former Vice President Mike Pence says Donald Trump “demonstrated profoundly poor judgment” and is calling on him to apologize after his supposed dinner a with Holocaust-denying white nationalist.
4 days ago
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 11: Election workers open mail in ballots at the Maricopa County Tabula...
JONATHAN J. COOPER, Associated Press

GOP-controlled Arizona county refuses to certify election

Republican officials in a rural Arizona county refused Monday to certify the 2022 election ahead of the deadline.
4 days ago
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks during a news briefing after the weekly Sen...
Daniella Diaz and Michelle Watson, CNN

A Democrat senator doesn’t believe they the votes for assault weapons ban

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said Senate Democrats don't have the 60 votes needed to advance an assault weapons ban bill but expressed optimism.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
McMullin sues super PAC, three Utah news stations for ad he says is defamatory