On Thursday morning, the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group made up mostly of Republicans, put up two billboards in Times Square. On one, Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a senior White House adviser, gestures to statistics about Covid-19 deaths.
The image of Ms. Trump was taken from a photo Ms. Trump released in July, in which she cradled a can of Goya beans in response to Goya facing a boycott. The can is no longer in the photo.
Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser, beams from an adjacent billboard alongside body bags and a quote, attributed to him in a Vanity Fair article, stating that New Yorkers will suffer during the pandemic, and “that’s their problem.”
The billboards spurred a prompt reaction from the couple’s lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who called them “false, malicious and defamatory” and threatened to sue.
“Of course, Mr. Kushner never made any such statement, Ms. Trump never made any such gesture, and the Lincoln Project’s representations that they did are an outrageous and shameful libel,” Mr. Kasowitz wrote. “If these billboard ads are not immediately removed, we will sue you for what will doubtless be enormous compensatory and punitive damages.”
Rick Wilson, a founder of the Lincoln Project, said that the group’s ad campaign — which was funded by an undisclosed private donor — almost didn’t survive.
On Friday evening, officials from Outfront Media, which leased the Times Square billboards to the Lincoln Project for two weeks at a cost of roughly $100,000, called the group after they learned of the letter from Mr. Kasowitz.
“Their response was very, ‘Oh, my God, we have to take these down,’” Mr. Wilson said.
“We said, ‘Listen, you can be on the side of Donald Trump right now as a major publicly traded company, or not,’” Mr. Wilson said. “‘But don’t expect us to be quiet if you take this billboard down. We will tell the truth about what happened.’”
A spokesman for Outfront Media did not respond to requests for comment.