Spreading false information because you don’t know the facts is a mistake. Continuing to spread false information when you know the truth is lying.
That’s what a Washington-based, big-money political group did by continuing to run TV commercials that used false information to smear Pennsylvania Attorney General candidate Kathleen Kane as being “soft” on rape.
The TV ad cited two cases in which it said Kane, a Democrat, let rapists off with light plea bargains. But the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s Office, and one of the rape victim’s fathers, said Kane wasn’t involved.
Once the group, the Republican State Leadership Committee, was confronted with the inaccuracies by the Daily News’ Chris Brennan, it was obligated to pull the ad. It said it would, and even admitted to the errors. But the ad ran for three more days. Continuing to broadcast the false ad turned what could have been explained as an unintended mistake into a lie.
Unfortunately, voters across the nation can only expect more misinformation and shadings of the truth as PACS, super-PACs, and other groups continue to bombard the airwaves with negative ads, fueled by seemingly naive Supreme Court decisions and Congress’s failure to put more controls on political spending.
The RSLC spent more than $500,000 to buy a week of advertising in the Philadelphia market. The group has filled its coffers with money from shale-gas drillers, tobacco interests, casinos, and the financial sector — all trying to influence government by backing specific candidates.
The candidates typically say they have nothing to do with the ads paid for by interests outside their campaigns, but they don’t mind reaping the benefits. Kane’s Republican opponent, Cumberland County prosecutor David Freed, should have denounced the false advertising. Instead, his campaign manager issued a weak statement saying outside groups should “conduct themselves in an honest and ethical manner.”
The media also has to bear some responsibility. Political speech is protected by the Constitution, but that doesn’t prevent the media from vetting ads for accuracy and refusing to run blatant lies. Would TV stations run pornographic or racist ads? Why can’t they tell political advertisers to show accurate supporting documentation for their assertions — and check the facts?
As for voters, they must carefully consider what a political ad may present as truth, especially when the ad wasn’t paid for by the candidate’s official campaign.