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House Republicans chastise CNN for refusing Trump 2020 ads, cite potential free speech violations

A group of House Republicans called out CNN president Jeff Zucker Monday over the network's decision not to run a pair of Trump campaign ads, citing possible violations of the Bill of Rights and Supreme Court precedent.

In a letter spearheaded by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., nine Republican House members criticized the network's refusal to run two video ads put out by the Trump campaign and urged him to "correct this flagrant violation with all due haste."

"As your news organization seems to have lost all sense of objectivity, spinning itself into oblivion to support left-leaning candidates and participating in distortions against conservative candidates, you have still operated within the boundaries of the First Amendment," the letter begins. "The law of the land and Supreme Court precedent protect your right to be loudly wrong."

However, they add, the decision to bar two Trump campaign ads from the company's airwaves earlier this month "is a step that falls beyond your First Amendment protections, and one that we believe is in violation of the law and the Constitution."

Earlier this month, CNN said it wouldn't air two Trump campaign video ads on its network over "demonstrably false” claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his and his son's dealings in Ukraine.

The lawmakers point to the Supreme Court Case of Buckley v. Valeo, which dealt with free speech for political campaigns, and cite a portion of the majority opinion in the case: "Discussion of public issues and debate on the qualifications of candidates are integral to the operation of the system of government established by our Constitution. The First Amendment affords the broadest protection to such political expression in order 'to assure (the) unfettered interchange of ideas for the bringing about of political and social changes desired by the people.'"

According to the lawmakers, the decision to not run the Trump ads while still running ads from his Democratic opponents violates the principles laid out in the Buckley ruling.

They also took issue with the network's claim that the ads "disparaged CNN and its journalists" as a reason for refusing to air them.

"Being personally offended is truly a poor reason to deny a candidate for public office the right to be heard, running contrary to both the intent of the Buckley decision and the self-proclaimed First Amendment values of your network," the letter reads. "We urge you to correct this flagrant violation with all due haste and allow the paid Trump Campaign advertisements to return to your airwaves immediately."

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