Reporters Kyle Clark and Brandon Rittiman at 9NEWS have seized in the last few days on a false claim originally exposed by this blog in an ad for GOP gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton. The false statement itself is unremarkable, with Walker claiming to have been the “only” Treasurer in America to support the Trump tax cut bill.
But what has 9NEWS upset enough to run repeated evening news segments blasting Stapleton with the nuclear-option words “lie” and “liar” is not that the ad is false, so much as Stapleton’s obstinate refusal to correct the ad or, failing that, stop showing it. Despite being debunked by every local TV station that runs “Truth Tests” or their own brand of fact checking, this false ad continues to run–and Stapleton defended it to the point of sheer absurdity in the most recent 9NEWS debate.
Last night, Clark voiced his frustration once again as the ad continued to run on his station, explaining to views that the station is prohibited from removing a candidate’s ad from broadcast–and that Stapleton knows he has the upper hand:
I know that more people are gonna see Stapleton’s false claim than will see our fact check. Stapleton knows that too. It’s probably why he doesn’t care he being called a liar. [Pols emphasis]
It’s tough to imagine how he could spell it out any clearer.
During the 2016 elections, a Republican campaign group bombarded the Arvada state senate district now represented by Sen. Rachel Zenzinger with a blatantly false attack regarding a “trip to China on taxpayer money” that never occurred. Denver7’s Marshall Zelinger (now at 9NEWS) exposed the GOP’s refusal to correct the record, including their using copy from fact-checks denouncing the ads in subsequent ads–and the “China Girl” attacks on Zenzinger backfired.
Unfortunately, the story of the failed “China Girl” campaign against Zenzinger is the exception in modern politics, not the rule. Kyle Clark’s observation above that more people will see the lie than will ever see the fact-checking is exactly right, and this allows unethical campaigns to turn lying into a calculated risk with favorable odds. It’s no longer necessary to tel the truth; all you have to do is broadcast your lies more times than they can be mathematically refuted.
The only thing working against this disheartening reality is the occasional fed-up reporter who decides they’re not going to put up with the bullshit anymore–like Zelinger did in 2016, and what Kyle Clark seems to be doing today. In the 2016 general election, there were both more and more diverse voters to listen. In a Republican primary in 2018?
It’s quite possible that all Clark will succeed in doing here is spelling Walker Stapleton’s name right–but it’s worth the effort nevertheless.