California billionaire and Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer has accused Fox News Channel of breaching its contract to air a television advertisement calling for President Donald Trump's impeachment.
Steyer's legal team sent a letter to Fox News informing the network that it breached a contract with Steyer when it pulled the 60-second ad spot that began airing in October, Politico reported Monday.
In the Friday memo addressed to Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy, a lawyer for Steyer, Brad Deutsch, called the decision to pull the ad "baseless and unethical."
Deutsch wrote that Fox had "unconditionally" agreed on Oct. 27 to run the ads for another week, and that the decision to pull them signaled a "profound failure of journalistic integrity, a suppression of constitutionally protected speech, and likely a consequence of inexcusable political pressure."
Fox News said its viewers' "strong negative reaction" to the ad factored into the network's decision to pull the plug.
"Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money," Abernethy said in a statement provided to Politico.
Steyer paid for the ad campaign as part of an effort to push for Trump's impeachment.
In the ad, Steyer says that Trump is bringing the U.S. "to the brink of nuclear war" with North Korea, and that he "obstructed justice at the FBI" by firing former Director James Comey in May while he was conducting a probe into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. The investor and environmentalist then calls Trump a "clear and present danger" who is "mentally unstable," urging citizens to contact their representatives and support impeachment.
— Tom Steyer (@TomSteyer) October 20, 2017
Trump pushed back against Steyer's ad in a tweet on Oct. 27, calling the billionaire "wacky" and "unhinged."
"Wacky & totaly unhinged Tom Steyer, who has been fighting me and my Make America Great Again agenda from the beginning, never wins elections!" Trump tweeted shortly after the ad aired during the show "Fox & Friends," which the president is known to frequently watch.
Shortly after Trump’s comment on Twitter, the ad was canceled.
"It is no coincidence that the Cancellation of the Advertisement, in the second week of its run, came on the heels of a tweet from President Trump, criticizing the spot and Mr. Steyer personally," Deutsch wrote in his letter to Fox.
Steyer personally released a statement on Friday in which he castigated Fox for canceling the ad run.
"If Fox News is siding with Trump and trying to silence us, they must be afraid of what we have to say," Steyer said. "It shows no respect for democracy."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) told Steyer that his ad is a "distraction," Politico reported last week, and said on Sunday the idea of Democrats prioritizing impeachment is "not someplace that I think we should go."