Ron DeSantis campaign gets attack ads pulled after citing PolitiFact in cease and desist letter

Our favorite fact-checkers debunked the ad's line of attack with a Pants on Fire rating.
Published April 23, 2018|Updated April 23, 2018

The story of those strange anti-Ron DeSantis attack ads took another turn Monday.

According to a DeSantis campaign spokesman, seven radio stations have pulled a radio ad that falsely accused DeSantis of voting "to give food stamps to people who are in the United States illegally" in 2014 after a DeSantis campaign lawyer sent a cease and desist letter.

WSRQ in Sarasota; WPSL in Port St. Lucie; WBZT and WJNO in West Palm Beach; WZTA in Vero Beach; WZZR in South Florida, and WNZF in Flagler county stopped airing the advertisement after receiving the letter, campaign spokesman Brad Herold told the Tampa Bay Times.

The advertisement, paid for by the National Liberty Federation (NLF) has drawn scrutiny for its content — and for its mysterious financial backers. Many Florida politicos suspect the state's sugar industry — no friend of DeSantis — is behind the campaign. As a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, the National Liberty Federation does not have to disclose its donors.

No matter who's behind the ad, the DeSantis campaign wanted it off the air.

"NLF's ad propagates maliciously false information to your listening audience about Ron DeSantis' position on illegal immigration," campaign lawyer Charles R. Spies wrote in an April 10 letter to managers of the television and radio stations airing the ad. The letter was first published by Breitbart, the conservative news website.

A March 29 PolitiFact article rated the claim cited by the NLF about illegal immigrants getting food stamps  "Pants on Fire," its designation for a statement that "is not accurate and makes a ridiculous claim."

Spies doubled down on that PolitiFact ruling in his cease and desist letter, writing, "in terms of unbiased analysis, the non-partisan & non-profit organization analyzed this exact…claim last week."

But the NLF ad itself criticized PolitiFact.

"When DeSantis' pro-illegal immigrant vote was exposed, the leftwing, George Soros-funded PolitiFact tried to distort and defend DeSantis' vote," the ad says.

A list of PolitiFact's donors can be found here. PolitiFact was created by the Tampa Bay Times, which is owned by the Poynter Institute.

Spies wrote in his letter that not only should radio stations stop airing NLF's immigration ad, they should reject any future attempts by the NLF to air it.

By Monday night, the seven radio stations had pulled the ad, according to Herold.