Florida Democratic governor nominee Andrew Gillum’s campaign is demanding television stations in Florida stop running an ad paid for by the Florida Republican Party that directly ties Gillum to an active FBI investigation.
There is an ongoing federal investigation into public corruption in Tallahassee. Gillum, who is the Tallahassee mayor, has said publicly that the FBI told him he was not a focus of the investigation.
The ad, in support of the GOP nominee for governor, Ron DeSantis, dropped late Tuesday night right before Hurricane Michael was poised to hit North Florida and the state’s panhandle. The ad ran in markets directly impacted by the storm.
The letter from Gillum’s campaign was sent to an undisclosed number of station managers by Glenn Burhans, Jr.,an attorney for the campaign. In the letter, Burhans says the ad is “demonstrably false in numerous respects and has been made with actual malice.” He adds, “Mayor Andrew Gillum and the Gillum for Governor Campaign will take all available legal recourse to prevent the spread of the false and defamatory Advertisement.”
Neither the DeSantis campaign nor the Florida Republican Party responded to requests for comment on the substance of the ad or the Gillum call for it to be taken down.
Letters like this during a heated campaign are not uncommon, but rarely lead to actual lawsuits. They more serve as a vehicle to pressure TV stations to pull ads or force them to go back to the campaigns in question and compel them to provide evidence to back up their claims.
While the Gillum campaign is upset about the charges in the ad, they are equally unhappy that the Republicans chose to release the ad at the height of the hurricane. Traditionally, Florida politicians pull negative ads in the path of a storm. This ad, and two others funded by the Republicans that were critical of Gillum’s leadership in prior storms, were airing in the Hurricane Michael impact zone during the storm. The Gillum campaign paused all their negative ads. The Rick Scott Senate campaign and the Bill Nelson Senate campaign also stopped their negative ads.
“It is abundantly clear that Congressman DeSantis is a liar who has no respect for Floridians and no positive vision for our state,” said communications director Johanna Cervone. “His latest attack ad is indicative of a candidate with no moral compass who has resorted to desperate and dirty lies in order to score political points during a natural disaster.”
While the campaigns pulled their negative ads, the PACs in support of the candidates continued their heavy rotation of negative ads. By law, the PACs and the campaigns are not allowed to coordinate.