As the controversy continues to swirl over a blatantly false TV ad running from CD-8 GOP candidate Barb Kirkmeyer’s campaign, Denver7’s Meghan Lopez reports on how in the specific case of candidate ads running on federally regulated broadcast networks, normally expected standards like truth in advertising and even Colorado’s own statute against knowingly false statements in political ads doesn’t apply:
“The Supreme Court gives extra protection to “robust” political speech, which political ads clearly are. The court decided over 50 years ago in NY Times v Sullivan that false and misleading statements about public officials are perfectly legal, as long as they are not made with “malice” and “reckless disregard” of the truth,” said Don Mayer, a professor of business ethics and legal studies at the University of Denver…
Cable channels, on the other hand, like CNN, Fox and MSNBC have much more latitude to determine which ad they want to allow and not allow on their airwaves. In fact, in 2019, CNN rejected two ads from former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign because of inaccuracies.
There is one important distinction: broadcast channels are allowed to reject or pull ads from non-candidate groups like political action committees or political parties (except when they coordinate with candidates). However, this can be tricky and will inevitably lead to long discussions about free speech.
And unfortunately for fans of the truth, once the lie is broadcast, the truth has very little hope of catching up–even if TV stations were inclined to help, and even the candidate chooses to fight back, which they may for strategic reasons choose not to do:
“If candidate Caraveo wished to run to court and get an injunction against the public airing of Kirkmeyers’s ad, she would have to show that the statement was made with “malice” and with “reckless disregard” of the truth. She might succeed in this case, [Pols emphasis] but once the ad airs, the damage is largely done,” Mayer said.
In the past week since the ad in question first aired, most of the Denver TV stations it aired on have responded with unequivocal stories informing their readers that the allegations in the ad are false. 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark used the opportunity to elaborate on what elevates a merely false statement into a full-blown lie, which boils down to the party’s knowledge of the facts. In this latest case, Barb Kirkmeyer knows that her allegation in this ad is false because she was present for legislative debates over the policy. The clear-cut nature of Kirkmeyer’s knowing falsehood, repeated twice for emphasis, makes it impossible to call it anything other than a lie.
In a statement Wednesday, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) tied this latest case of indefensible dishonesty from Kirkmeyer to an issue Kirkmeyer tried mightily to downplay and ultimately deny after winning the June 28th primary–her longstanding support for federal restrictions on abortion rights:
Barbara Kirkmeyer will lie about her platform and her opponent every chance that she gets. She has lied about supporting a federal abortion ban and now she is doubling down on her lies. With her dangerous and unpopular agenda, it’s no wonder Kirkmeyer feels the need to lie in order to distract from how out of touch she is with her own community.
The attempt by Kirkmeyer and her backers to claim that Kirkmeyer was never “an activist” on abortion is easily refuted by her record, and Kirkmeyer was damaged further by revelations she had scrubbed her website of previous anti-abortion positions. But the lies didn’t stop there: Kirkmeyer claimed during a debate that the 2013 measure she supported for rural counties to secede from Colorado was not a secession question, which it plainly was and once again Kirkmeyer cannot be excused for not knowing.
Looking back on Kirkmeyer’s statements since launching her 2022 bid for Congress, and especially since the primary, the wholesale extent to which Kirkmeyer has lied in order to better appeal to swing voters has been objectively much worse than average. Joe O’Dea’s dishonesty and semantic games on abortion rights come close, but Kirkmeyer’s far longer and more strident record on the issue made her about-face much more jarring.
But it wasn’t until Kirkmeyer lied knowingly and audaciously in this latest campaign ad, falsely claiming that her opponent “legalized fentanyl” when everyone even casually following Colorado politics for the last two years knows better, that it became clear how dependent Kirkmeyer’s campaign is on audacious dishonesty. That’s not something that happens by accident. Kirkmeyer’s campaign made a deliberate choice early on to simply lie about Kirkmeyer’s record instead of attempting to defend or explain it.
It’s behavior that should not be rewarded, but too often is. And that’s why liars do it.