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Andrew Gillum issues ‘cease and desist’ over latest GOP attack ads

As Hurricane Michael approached Wednesday, Florida Democrats took umbrage over a brutal attack ad in the Governor’s race.

The spot running in North Florida attacked Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum over an ongoing FBI investigation in the city. The spot was first reported Tuesday evening by CNN’s Ryan Nobles.

On Thursday, the Gillum campaign upped the ante, with counsel Glenn Burhans, Jr. calling on television stations running the “demonstrably false” spot to cease and desist.

“Audio stating ‘Andrew Gillum is running for Governor and also from the FBI’ combined with the text ‘Andrew Gillum FBI Investigation’ intentionally make the false statement of fact that Mayor Gillum is the subject of an FBI investigation from which he is running away from,” the letter asserts, adding that “it has been widely reported that the Mayor has been advised by the FBI that he is not the subject of an investigation.”

Charges of “illegal trips with lobbyists” likewise are overblown, claims the letter. While an ethics complaint may allege that, repeating the allegation as fact is “classic defamation.” As are claims that Gillum is “corrupt.”

Allegations that “Andrew Gillum refuses to disclose who paid him” are likewise false, the letter asserts, because Gillum “did not accept any money and was not paid by anyone.”

The Democrats followed up with a media call with federal and state prosecutors (an interesting choice, given DeSantis’ own history as a JAG prosecutor in the Navy) that pressed the case that the ad amounted to defamation, even as they conceded the courts likely wouldn’t get involved in this one.

Dan Gelber, Miami Beach Mayor and former deputy United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, called the ad “despicable” and an example of “low-life tactics.”

“Ron DeSantis exploited Florida hurricane victims by sending them untrue ads while they were glued to their TV sets during the storm,” Gelber said, calling DeSantis a “say anything, do anything candidate.”

Marcos Jimenez, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, concurred, saying the spot had “racist undertones.”

Republican Party of Florida officials said Wednesday the ad will no longer run, even as they stand by the spot.

“The order to take the ads down in the affected areas was made,” said Meredith Beatrice, RPOF Communications Director. “Any statement to the contrary is simply wrong.”

The affected areas, per Beatrice, were the Panhandle and Big Bend.

Republican Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis did not want to discuss the ads or the campaign when asked Wednesday afternoon, saying he was focused on hurricane relief.

However, by Wednesday evening, he was excoriating Gillum on Fox News, raising questions about his expressed desires earlier in the day to avoid discussing the campaign.

Jacob Ogles and A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.

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