Obama demands pro-Trump group stop using his voice to attack Biden

"This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook," Obama spokeswoman Katie Hill told NBC News.
Image: Obama fellows meet with former president
Barack Obama speaks to Obama Foundation Fellows at Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago in May 2018.Erin Hooley / TNS via Getty Images file

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By Mike Memoli and Dareh Gregorian

Former President Barack Obama is demanding that a pro-Trump group stop airing a "despicable" ad that uses a recording of Obama's voice to attack former Vice President Joe Biden — a rare intervention in a race that Obama has largely avoided so far.

"[T]his despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it's clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama's voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers," Katie Hill, Obama's communications director, told NBC News.

The ad from the Committee to Defend the President, which aired on a South Carolina CBS affiliate multiple times before and during Tuesday night's debate, borrows from an Obama audiobook to suggest that the former president is criticizing his VP.

"Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here's President Obama," a narrator in the ad says, leading into an audio clip of Obama decrying "plantation politics" and "black people in the worst jobs" over headline summaries knocking Biden's history on race. "Joe Biden won't represent us," a female narrator concludes.

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Obama's office said his lawyers would be sending the pro-Trump group — which according to its website started as the Stop Hillary PAC in 2013 — a cease-and-desist letter Wednesday.

"In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate," Hill said.

She added that Obama plans on keeping away from the race until after there's a nominee.

"President Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President," Hill said. "He has said he has no plans to endorse in the primary because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee."

Dan Backer, a lawyer for the PAC, said, "I'd say we're disinclined to comply with the erroneous legal reasoning of a letter I haven't even seen."

As for the ad, Backer told NBC News that it's Obama's voice "reading the words he wrote in the context he wrote them. It's absolutely accurate and truthful and correct."

"It's unfortunate that Democrats are this desperate to keep African American voters from talking about the failures of the Democratic Party," he said.

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said the PAC's ad shows that "Donald Trump and his allies are absolutely terrified that Joe Biden will defeat him in November."