A furious Donald Trump has demanded news network CNN retract and apologise for a poll that showed him well behind Democratic rival Joe Biden as preferred US president.
“We stand by our poll,” CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said on Thursday (Australian time).
The Trump campaign had earlier sent a highly unusual legal letter to the network after it published a poll showing Mr Biden had a 14-point lead over the US President.
The CNN poll, released on Monday, also found Mr Trump’s approval rating was just 38 per cent – his worst result since January 2019.
The figures put him on a similar footing to one-term presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush at a similar point in their re-election years – with the 2020 presidential election less than five months away.
Mr Trump’s disapproval rating was 57 per cent.
Within hours, Mr Trump said he had retained pollster John McLaughlin to refute the claims.
His campaign also wrote to CNN president Jeff Zucker claiming the poll was “designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling”.
But CNN – a network Mr Trump has had a troubled relationship with – pushed back in a scathing response from executive vice-president and general counsel David Vigilante.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time in its 40-year history that CNN has been threatened with legal action because an American politician or campaign did not like CNN’s polling results,” he wrote.
“To the extent we have received legal threats from political leaders in the past, they have typically come from countries like Venezuela or other regimes where there is little or no respect for a free and independent media.”
He said the Trump campaign’s claims were “factually and legally baseless”.
“It is yet another bad faith attempt by the campaign to threaten litigation to muzzle speech it does not want voters to read or hear,” he wrote.
This week’s CNN poll was in line with other recent polls that also put Mr Biden well ahead of Mr Trump. Many also gave him a double-figure lead.
Also on Thursday, Mr Trump said he would resume mass campaign rallies again later in June, ahead of the November 3 election.
It comes after criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent mass protests against police brutality and racism.
The first rally is likely to be in Oklahoma, on June 19, despite fears about the continued spread of COVID-19, which has caused more than 115,000 deaths in the US.
“Beautiful new venue, brand new and they’re looking forward to it,” Mr Trump said.
“They’ve done a great job with COVID in the state of Oklahoma.”
Mr Trump also said he would announce a new location for an August speech to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
Campaign advisers say the site is expected to be Jacksonville, Florida.
Mr Trump will also attend his first in-person fundraiser since the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Texas city of Dallas later on Thursday.