One of them could do us all a great favor by holding broadcasters accountable in a way that We the People cannot...
Republican presidential contenders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are at war over what they charge to be false political ads against each other. It's one battle in this bizarre and contentious campaign year that could actually benefit us all.
The Cruz campaign has been running a series of attack ads about Trump's position on abortion, which Politifact reviewed and described as "flawed." In response to what he calls Cruz' "lying ads", Trump has threatened to file a suit charging that Cruz, who was born in Canada, may not be eligible for the presidency.
Meanwhile, a SuperPAC called the American Future Fund ran an attack ad against Cruz calling him "weak" on defense, which the group Fact Check reviewed and found to be "misleading." Cruz' response was to have his attorneys write a sternly worded letter to the TV stations running the ad against him, demanding they pull it, citing FCC public-interest obligations and more.
"Because this advertisement makes a flatly false factual claim for which your station is ultimately liable," the Cruz attorneys wrote, "we strongly urge you to exercise your discretion as a licensee to refuse to continue to broadcast this advertisement, and, because it is already airing, immediately pull the advertisement from your rotation."
In this case, the Cruz attorneys are right, at least in regard to the legal issues at stake...
Why is Cruz going after the TV stations, but Trump is going after Cruz personally? Trump can't sue Cruz over a "lying" campaign ad, because there's no law against candidates lying on air. Therefore, he's threatening litigation on the separate issue of Cruz' birthplace. (Whether we like it or not, any federal candidate who runs their own "I approve this message" ad on TV or radio is free to lie to the public as much as he or she likes. Broadcasters are legally not allowed to vet candidates' ads for fictitious statements, and stations are required to run those false ads over our public airwaves.)
This system works great, of course, for television stations, which are set to rake in an estimated $4.4 billion in political ad sales in 2016. But it's terrible for We the People, who, when making voting decisions, are clearly harmed by political ads that are lying to us, as aired by broadcasters licensed to "serve the public interest."