A Word About TV Stations and Candidate Ads…

Nov 23, 2011 3:45pm

One word about a tweet I wrote yesterday that was understandably misunderstood.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has a new TV ad that quotes President Obama so out of context the ad is flat-out deceptive.

In 2008, then-Senator Obama, quoting a New York Daily News story that quoted an unnamed McCain campaign adviser, said: “Sen. McCain’s campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.’”

The new ad quotes Obama saying, “if we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.”

That struck me as so falsely out of context, it’s a lie.

One tweet I wrote said: “As for Romney’s ad, it’s not just misleading. It’s TV-station-refuse-to-air-it-misleading.”

I meant that as an expression of surprise, as in “Wow, that’s so false I can’t believe it’s on TV.”

I didn’t mean for that tweet to be a legal judgment about the ad; I wasn’t calling for TV stations to refuse to air it. Many campaigns have run ads that are false and deceptive. I also tweeted a note about how then-Sen. Obama, in 2008, ran a very deceptive ad that managed to misrepresent the views of both Sen. McCain and Rush Limbaugh. (Quite a feat.)

Federal election law is byzantine and complicated, with TV stations generally obligated to run candidate ads as long as they don’t violate community standards. (Ads from independent groups are a different matter.) When it comes to airing TV ads, the business side of TV stations don’t call balls and strikes – they have all sorts of legal obligations to run ads from all candidates and campaigns as long as they have the time to sell and the campaigns can pay the fees.

Some folks saw my tweet as stating something else. I’ve since deleted the tweet since it was so misconstrued and that shan’t be an expression I use again.

-Jake Tapper

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