Philip Levine's campaign said Monday that they've sent a cease-and-desist letter to the television stations airing a Jeff Greene campaign commercial attacking one of Levine's signature projects as Miami Beach mayor.
Greene last week began airing a "Latrine Levine" commercial that attacked Levine over a "snapshot" study that found the city's flood pumps were sending tidal water tainted with high levels of human fecal bacteria back into Biscayne Bay. The ad also focuses on the response to the study by Levine and the city's government, which involved attacking the scientists who published the findings and the Miami Herald's coverage.
Levine's campaign quickly pointed out that the commercial uses stock images from China, Russia and other foreign countries to illustrate scenes of pollution that don't actually exist in Miami Beach. On Monday, they announced that a campaign attorney, former U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of Florida Kendall Coffey, sent a letter to the stations airing the ad, demanding that the commercial be taken down. He called the ad "false and defamatory."
During his only other competitive campaign, when Levine ran for mayor in 2013, he was aggressive in fighting negative ads and fought to have some commercials taken down. Claire VanSusteren, a spokeswoman for the Greene campaign, said their attorney will be responding to Coffey.
"The visuals are aides - the headlines are facts. We stand by the ad," VanSusteren said. "Levine is a bully. He tried to silence scientists and members of the press who told the public the truth about dangerous and disgusting fecal bacteria being dumped in the bay — but Jeff Greene won’t be bullied."
Here's the letter.
August 11, 2018
Re: Cease and Desist Broadcasting of False Political Advertising
To Whom It May Concern:
We represent Philip Levine, a candidate for Florida Governor.
It has come to our attention that your broadcast station has been airing a political advertisement that falsely asserts that the City of Miami Beach pumped “millions of gallons of human waste” annually into Biscayne Bay during Mr. Levine’s tenure as Mayor of Miami Beach, and depicts misleading stock video images of sewage pouring from open pipes to create the false impression that the City dumps sewage directly into the Bay.
As you will see from the attached memorandum from Miami Beach’s City Manager, the City’s sewer system does not directly discharge into Biscayne Bay, as the advertisement falsely suggests. Moreover, the images of fouled water and open sewer pipes in the ad are not from Miami Beach, but are misleading stock images of sewers from Russia, China, Serbia and the Czech Republic. The links below confirm that the stock images used in the advertisement do not depict Miami Beach, Biscayne Bay or even Florida waters:
The misleading use of these stock images from overseas sewers is false and defamatory. And, as the City’s Memorandum makes clear, the advertisement’s suggestion that the City of Miami Beach pumped human waste into Biscayne Bay from open pipes also is false and defamatory.
We therefore respectfully insist that, by 5 p.m. today, your station cease and desist the broadcasting of this advertisement or any advertisements that state or imply that the City of Miami Beach discharged human waste into Biscayne Bay from its sewer system. At a minimum, these ads should be taken down pending a legal review.
Please govern yourself accordingly,
Kendall Coffey, Esq.