At 1:41 EDT, CNN's Kyra Phillips interviewed Brooks Jackson, former CNN reporter and current director of the Annenberg Center's Political Fact Check, on his latest issue of Fact Check, which categorizes the anti-John Roberts ad by NARAL Pro-Choice America currently running on CNN during commercial breaks as patently false. Phillips expressed concern over lack of federal laws against false political attacks ads, but failed to ask Jackson whether CNN bore an obligation to cancel the ads altogether.
Jackson noted that NARAL's ad, unlike most campaign ads his group has analyzed recently, was completely false, not just spun here and there to massage the truth to a particular political viewpoint.
Kyra Phillips: “Well, the ad is airing on CNN and other networks and already has some people crying foul. Brooks Jackson of FactCheck.org took a close look at the ad and the facts. He joins us now from Washington. Brooks, great to see you. Well, let’s talk about the ad. You checked the facts, you say it’s false.”
Brooks Jackson, FactCheck.org: “That’s right, and we don’t characterize things as false very often, more often ads are misleading or twisted or distorted or out of context, but, uh, this one is absolutely false...”
After Jackson went through his litany of what NARAL got wrong, Phillips asked Jackson whether there should be laws governing false advertising in political spots on TV. Phillips, did not, however, solicit ask Jackson if her network bears an obligation to cancel the advertising and refund NARAL its libel-money.
Phillips: “So my question is, how can these ads, or how can the individuals putting these ads together, legally do this, Brooks?”
Jackson: “Well, there’s no law against it, but a lot of people are surprised to hear that, because they’re used to the Federal Trade Commission protecting us from false ads against, about commercial products, but there are no federal laws anyway, that cover false advertising in political campaigns or in lobbying campaigns like this one.”
Phillips: “So there are no truth-in-advertising laws that exist?”
Jackson: “None, and probably you wouldn’t want them. When the courts look at these things, they think that, they take the position that the First Amendment, free speech, should give people the right to say what they want and we in the news media and the public should sort it out for ourselves.”
Phillips: “But we’re talking about someone’s reputation, and we’re talking about an incredibly high profile position, you would think at some point, right, that a lawmaker would come forward and say we’ve got to devise something because this is just nasty.”
Jackson: “Well, but it’s very— a few states have tried to come up with laws against false political advertising, and its very difficult to get them to pass muster with the courts. When they do, it’s very difficult to enforce them, it comes down to an interpretation by some government official which candidate is right or which one is wrong, and that’s a decision the courts think should be left mainly to the voters. Probably not a bad idea.”
Phillips: “Brooks Jackson, FactCheck.org, of course worked for CNN for a number of years. You’re always helping us get the facts straight, something we aim to do. Brooks, thanks so much.”