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Political Ads are designed to be vague, deceptive and to misinform the public: Part II

September 12, 2022

In Part I, we discussed some of the larger reasons why political ads are so offensive. We talked about how journalism has failed us on election coverage and how candidates center themselves instead of the community or issues that people care about.

In Part II, we want to look at a recent political ad, one that could be described as an attack ad, and one that severely misinforms the public. 

The political ad in question, was an attack ad paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is a GOP Political Action Committee, with the following mission statement:   

Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF) is the super PAC dedicated exclusively to one goal: winning a Republican Majority in the House of Representatives. 

The paid ad is part of a website that attacks the democratic Party Candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, Hillary Scholten, which has as the main page banner a picture of Hillary Scholten and this phrase, “Hillary Scholten stood with rioters. Not us.”

Here is the 30 second ad, paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund:

The ad begins with an image of cops in riot gear, with text that says, “riots in Grand Rapids,” and a voice over saying, “Two years ago, peace was shattered in our community.” First off, how is it that an ad that is paid for by a GOP Political Action Committee, located in Washington, DC, how can they say “our community” when referring to Grand Rapids?

The ad continues by listing the number of cop cars burned, the number of businesses that were damaged by the 2020 uprising and the cost of the damage done because of the uprising.

Then comes the punch line, “Hillary Scholten’s response just one day after the riots? She dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters. And Scholten worked with a group that wanted the rioters to get away with destruction. Hillary Scholten is with them, not us.”

The critical points to deconstruct here are the claims that 1) Scholten dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters, and 2) that she worked with a group that wanted to rioters to get away with destruction.

The first claim is supposedly based on comments from Hillary Scholten’s candidate Facebook page for May 31st, 2020. Here is what was actually posted. First, a picture of her and one of her children, sweeping up glass the day after the riot, with the comment you can see here on the right above.

The other post that Scholten made on May 31st, 2020, was a formal statement from here campaign, posted here below:

Now, in the first May 31st post comments, Scholten makes the point that she wants to, “repair the relationship between our police and communities of color.” Such a statement does dismiss the destruction, nor does it praise the rioters. In the campaign statement released on May 31st, 2020, it seems clear to this writer that Scholten believes that property damage done during the uprising was negative and that people who are protesting should always be “peaceful.” She even comes across as judging those who were protesting by saying that the destruction will make it more difficult to rebuild from the ongoing crisis brought on by the COVID crisis. Therefore, the ad’s claim that Scholar dismissed the destruction and praised the rioters is simply false.

As to the second major accusation, that Scholten worked with a group that wanted to rioters to get away with destruction, the ad’s source for this is an ACLU Michigan Media Release from June 9, 2020. Here is an excerpt from that Media Release: 

Now is a time for healing, which can begin with a demonstration of law enforcement officials’ commitment both to the freedom of speech and the need to address the systemic injustice these protests have highlighted. The first step, which the ACLU urges law enforcement statewide to take today, is to dismiss charges, or not to pursue prosecutions, in cases arising from the protests of the past two weeks.

While the ACLU Michigan Media Release makes clear they want police departments across the State of Michigan to not prosecute those involving the protests during late May/early June of 2020, but that is different that saying they wanted rioters to get away with destruction. More importantly, while Hillary Scholten has worked with the ACLU, primarily because of her work on immigration rights, there is no direct involvement in the June 9, 2020 Media Release from the ACLU of Michigan.

Clearly, the Congressional Leadership Fund wants to present candidate Scholten as someone who is lawless and can be viewed as having ideological positions as antifa. However, there is nothing from Scholten’s Campaign page, which would suggest that she is anti-establishment or that she is challenging systems of power and oppression. Scholten doesn’t even present information on her campaign page about the police, policing, nor the demands to defund policing that have come out of the Movement for Black Lives. In fact, the Democratic Party as a whole has consistently advocated for and voted for additional funding for the cops since the uprisings of 2020.

As with most political ads, the truth is irrelevant. If a political ad can get the public to associate a candidate with taking a position that is outside of mainstream politics, then that is all that they care about. In Part III of our look at political ads, we will look at a few examples of ads that are vague and use campaign buzzwords, but offer any real substance. 

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