Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 26, 2010

AN OLD, DISCREDITED TALKING POINT MAKES A COMEBACK.... Last year, as the debate over health care reform intensified, Republicans not only turned on the individual-mandate idea that they'd come up with, they also desperately tried to make it as scary as possible. That meant repeating one message over and over again: if you don't get insurance, the government will put you in jail.

In fact, this was a major part of the offensive for a while. Glenn Beck told Fox News' audience that "there will be jail time" for those who refuse to participate in the health care system. Dick Morris said the same thing, arguing, "One of the provisions in the Pelosi bill is you actually can go to jail for not having health insurance." A year ago, a "Fox & Friends" on-screen graphic during told viewers during a segment on the health care debate, "Comply or go to jail."

The argument didn't really go anywhere, and for the most part, Republicans moved on to other attacks. By April, Bill O'Reilly pretended the entire argument never happened, insisting, "[Y]ou don't know anybody on Fox News -- because there hasn't been anyone -- that said people will go to jail if they don't buy mandatory insurance... [W]e researched to find out if anybody had ever said you are going to jail if you don't buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it." (He was blatantly lying.)

Unfortunately, the nonsense is back. A shadowy far-right outfit called American Action Network is attacking Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a new ad for supporting a health care law that means, among other things, "jail time for anyone without coverage."

That's the bad news. The good news, as Greg Sargent reports today, is that a Connecticut station will not run the deceptive spot.

FoxCT, the local Fox affiliate, informed the Murphy campaign that it would stop running the American Action Network ad after the Murphy camp sent the station a letter detailing the ad's falsehoods, the Murphy campaign confirms.

"We have verified that the ad in question is not accurate and will pull their schedule going forward," a FoxCT executive wrote to the Murphy campaign in an email sent my way. "I hope you have reached out to the other stations and they follow the same course."

I'm told other another Connecticut station may follow suit.

It's always heartening when this happens. I've long believed ads would be less deceptive if stations refused to air spots that could be proven false.

What's more, as Greg keeps reminding us, the larger point is that these shadowy organizations aren't just trying to sway elections with secret money, they're doing so with ads intended to mislead the public.

Postscript: For the record, in case there's any lingering confusion, those who refuse to buy insurance would be subjected to a fine, but the law specifies that "such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution." The American Action Network simply intended to lie and hope voters wouldn't know the difference.

Steve Benen 3:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (10)

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And the penalty for lying on the air is...? Oh wait Fox News has a whole network and infrastructure built on lying.

Posted by: John R on October 26, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have an answer for lying sacks of shit politicians.
Politicians be required to sign a document that they will give up their job if they don't follow it. And the pledge is that if they are proved in a court of law to have lied in public or in the house of congress or the senate or on TV then they are given a large warning card of a bright red color to be prominently displayed on their person at all times.Now here's the good part for any subsequent offense they are to have a finger cut off ala Japanese gangster style. More lies more missing fingers and possibly toes.

Posted by: Gandalf on October 26, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

the law specifies that "such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution."

Because you know, no one read the bill before voting for it...

Posted by: r_m on October 26, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

r_m: So is that supposed to be why nobody seems to feel like they need to read the bill before attacking it?

Posted by: mcc on October 26, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

"jail time for anyone without coverage."

They'd better be careful with that... Republican voters might think it's a good idea and vote FOR Murphy.

Posted by: nothingmuch on October 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

i know that since that ridiculous scotus decision that opened the floodgates of corporate money that there are no federal laws to protect us. in the meantime, for a while at least, there are state laws that protect us. here in vermont, these organizations have to register with the secretary of state's office, there are disclosure requirements, and also limits to the amounts of money they can raise in the state. our a.g. has already sued two of the organizations spreading lies, although obviously nothing will happen until well after the election.

oh, yeah, i know, now our state will be sued for having such unfair laws, and who knows where that will end, but at least it's better than the status on the federal level.

Posted by: just bill on October 26, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah. You can't get put in jail for not getting healthcare.

But in the Teabagger's America, you can be put in jail for publicly questioning one of their heroes.

I hate these people.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on October 26, 2010 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't false advertising a crime? It is in most other countries, certainly in Britain.

Posted by: Goldilocks on October 26, 2010 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

I've long believed ads would be less deceptive if stations refused to air spots that could be proven false. -- Steve Benen

Alternatively, the station could air it, with a preemptive caveat: the following ad is 20% truth, 40% misdirection and 40% lie.

Posted by: exlibra on October 26, 2010 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

A similar ad is being run against Patty Murray in Washington state.

Posted by: Bonnie on October 27, 2010 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK



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