Tag Archives: reproductive rights

When the truth isn’t truthy enough

The Phil Scott and Sue Minter campaigns are in full froth over alleged negative advertising. Each accuses the other of willful distortion: Team Scott is upset over ads questioning his pro-choice credentials; the Scott campaign, meanwhile, is slammed for tying Minter to a proposed carbon tax.

Funny thing is, they’re both right on both counts. The attacks are based in fact, but are designed to mislead.

The pro-choice ads were produced by the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund. They cite two pieces of evidence that call Scott’s abortion stance into question. The first: his past support for some restrictions on access to abortion. The second: the fact that Right to Life Vermont “recommended” Scott.

Both are accurate. But still misleading.

Second point first. RTL did not endorse Scott, but it did “recommend” him as, basically, the best of an inadequate lot. RTL doesn’t particularly like Scott, and they’d much prefer a harder-line candidate, but he was, in RTL’s view, the least bad option.

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Ethical issues in Dean Corren’s TV campaign

Questions have been raised about a couple of Dean Corren’s TV ads. One of them claims that incumbent Lt. Gov. Phil Scott has been endorsed by Right to Life; another shows a series of high-profile politicos who’ve endorsed Corren, but includes a picture of two state senators who have not.

The former is explored by the Freeploid’s Nancy Remsen today. The ad in question features several women talking about reproductive rights. (Their names are not mentioned; one of them is state Democratic Party chair Dottie Deans.) They extol Corren’s support of reproductive rights, and then one of them says “Dean Corren is endorsed by Planned Parenthood; his opponent, by Right to Life.”

Kerfuffle ensues.

Phil Scott insists he is pro-choice, although he does support parental notification for minors seeking abortions, which is one of Right to Life’s pet causes. (It sounds fine in theory, but in practice, a lot of girls seeking abortions come from troubled homes. In some cases, they were impregnated by a family member. Parental notification opens a big fat can of worms.)

In fact, Right to Life has not endorsed Scott, but it has “recommended” him. Corren says this is a distinction without a difference: Scott has Right to Life’s support, if not technically the endorsement. The ad doesn’t mischaracterize Scott’s positions; it just points out that he’s backed by an anti-abortion group.

The Corren people could change the narration to say “Dean Corren is endorsed by Planned Parenthood; his opponent is supported by Right to Life.” The impact of the ad would be unchanged. I don’t think it’s that big a deal either way.

As for the other ad… it starts with Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsing Corren. (Well, technically, he says “I’m voting for Dean Corren,” so maybe Phil Scott would argue that that’s not an “endorsement.”)

And then, for a solid five seconds, there’s a still photo of several Dem and/or Prog officeholders posing together.

I hadn't realized our Auditor was so butch.

I hadn’t realized our Auditor was so butch.

From left to right, we have Sen. Ginny Lyons, Sen. Tim Ashe, Cong. Peter Welch, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Dean Corren, Sen. Phil Baruth, and Sen. David Zuckerman.

After that, the ad cycles through other images and names, and ends with Bernie.

But that one picture is the problem. Lyons and Ashe have not endorsed Corren. Lyons has pointedly not made an endorsement; Ashe has been silent.

The ad is factually accurate. It doesn’t claim endorsements from Lyons or Ashe. But the implication is obvious, and it’s misleading. That picture is on screen for five seconds, which is an eternity in TV ad time. And the big colorful campaign signs clearly identify the two senators, tying them visibly to the endorsement list.

Otherwise, the ad is excellent. It’s well-produced and effective. It drives home the point that Corren is supported by a broad range of liberal and progressive individuals and groups. But that one image is deceptive. It’s within the letter of the law, but violates the spirit. I’d expect better from Corren.