Ivanka Trump & Jared Kushner Threaten Lawsuit Over Billboards Criticizing Them for COVID-19 Response
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner threatened to sue an anti-Trump group over billboards in New York City blasting the senior White House aides for their role in the government's novel coronavirus (COVID-19) response.
The Lincoln Project, a group of anti-Trump Republicans focused on preventing Donald Trump's re-election on Nov. 3, recently set up two giant billboards in N.Y.C.'s Times Square that feature the president's 38-year-old daughter on one and her husband, 39, on another.
In the first billboard, Ivanka is seen smiling and gesturing toward a set of statistics that more than 33,000 New Yorkers and more than 224,000 Americans have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As noted elsewhere, the photo used is the same one that Ivanka posted in a controversial tweet in July promoting Goya beans, which drew backlash from some who said the Trump administration was endorsing a specific company.
In the adjacent billboard, Kushner, who like his wife serves as an adviser to the president, can be seen smiling beside something that Vanity Fair quoted him saying during a meeting in March: "[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that's their problem." (Kushner disputes saying this.)
The bottom of the billboard with his photo is lined with red-and-white body bags.
The billboards are set to remain through at least two days after the election, per The New York Times.
The couple was not pleased, according to an attorney representing them, who sent a letter on Friday to The Lincoln Project threatening a lawsuit if the billboards were not removed.
Marc E. Kasowitz, the lawyer, called the billboards "false, malicious and defamatory."
Kasowitz also took issue with the juxtaposition on the billboards between the disputed Kushner quote and Ivanka's gesture and the other elements tying them to the death toll from the pandemic.
Kasowitz described it as “outrageous and shameful libel.” (He did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.)
"If these billboards are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages,” he wrote in his letter.
The Lincoln Project, which has built a major media profile (and raised millions) on a series of viral anti-Trump ads and other stunts, quickly posted his letter on social media instead.
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Later on Friday, the group shared its rebuttal on Twitter, calling the president's daughter and son-in-law "entitled, out-of-touch bullies who have never given the slightest indication they have any regard for the American people."
"We plan on showing them the same level of respect," the group wrote in its response.
The Lincoln Project seemed to be tweaking the view of Ivanka and Kushner, held by many of their critics, that the two are vastly unqualified — and that Ivanka, in particular, hypocritically advances the president's agenda while occasionally and only nominally distancing herself publicly and through leaks by her aides.
The Lincoln Project added in their statement that the billboards will continue to stay up so that "people are continuously reminded of the cruelty, audacity, and staggering lack of empathy the Trump’s and the Kushner's have displayed towards the American people."
(A spokesman for The Lincoln Project did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.)
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Then, on Saturday, the group followed up their social media statement with an official response written from attorney Matthew Sanderson.
"Please peddle your scare tactics elsewhere. The Lincoln Project will not be intimidated by such an empty bluster," he wrote.
The billboards of Ivanka and her husband are not the first from The Lincoln Project, which describes its sole purpose as defeating "Trumpism," per the group's website.
According to posts from the group's Twitter account, they were behind several other anti-Trump billboards including one in North Carolina that reads, "Trump lied. 200,000 plus died. More than the entire population of Wilmington."