A lawyer for former President Obama is asking a pro-Trump super PAC behind an ad attacking former Vice President Joe Biden to remove the spot from the internet and other mediums, arguing it misuses a passage from the president's memoir in an effort to mislead viewers.
The ad from the Committee to Defend the President, the super PAC supporting President Trump's reelection, aired during Tuesday's Democratic debate and includes material from Obama's book, "Dreams From my Father," published in 1995. The audiobook was released in 2005.
"This unauthorized use of President Obama's name, image, likeness, voice and book passage is clearly intended to mislead the target audience of the ad into believing that the passage from the audiobook is a statement that was made by President Obama during his presidency, when it was in fact a statement made by a barber in a completely different context more than 20 years ago," Patchen Haggerty, Obama's lawyer, wrote in a letter to the group Wednesday.
Titled "Enough Empty Promises," the 30-second spot features side-by-side images of Biden and Obama and a snippet from the former president's audiobook.
While the ad suggests the statement was made recently and by Obama, Haggerty said that's not the case. Rather, the president was recounting a conversation he had with a barber who was commenting on Chicago politics before the election of Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor.
The super PAC's use of the material "constitutes a misappropriation and violation of President Obama's right of publicity" under state law and violates federal copyright law, he added.
"We trust that you understand that our client must protect its rights and prevent the unauthorized and misleading use of President Obama's name, image, likeness, voice and other intellectual property," Haggerty wrote.
Obama's lawyer called on the Committee to Defend the President to remove the ad from digital platforms and refrain from airing it on any other medium.
The Committee to Defend the President did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The ad remains on the group's Facebook page.
Katie Hill, a spokesman for Obama, denounced the ad in a statement and stressed that the former president does not plan to endorse a candidate in the primary "because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee."
"But this 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," Hill said. "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."
The ad comes ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary, where support from African-American voters will be crucial to a strong finish for Biden.