When our Claim Check columns run in this space, we often distinguish between verifiable assertions of fact, and statements that are purely subjective or amount to advertising puffery and which are not subject to fact-checking.
Political candidates, however, don’t always make that distinction, as evidenced by a letter from the campaign of Steve Obsitnik, challenger in the 4th Congressional District, objecting to a television ad run by incumbent Jim Himes.
“Without a doubt, the advertisement contains false information deliberately intended to mislead Connecticut voters,” John Puskar, Obsitnik’s campaign manager, wrote this morning to the parent company of News12 Connecticut. “Because the advertisement conveys messages that are plainly disproven by fact, we respectfully demand that your station immediately stop airing the advertisement.”
And what was the disproven statement? “At issue is Himes’ claim that he is committed to ‘responsibly reducing our deficits,’ ” Puskar wrote. “That is a patently false claim.”
That sounds like the sort of statement open to plenty of debate, but not to proving wrong as a matter of fact.
Regardless, Obsitnik’s demand is not likely to go anywhere. First, broadcasters who accept advertising for a federal campaign are barred by federal law from rejecting ads from a candidate, no matter what the spots contain.
And second, and more curiously, the specific phrase Puskar identifies as objectionable – that Himes is committed to “responsibly reducing our deficits” – doesn’t actually appear in the ad. The spot includes language lauding Himes’ actions related to the national deficit, but not with those words. Instead, on Himes’ website, a link to the ad includes a paragraph of background information, including a notation that Himes was “honored by the Concord Coalition, a non-partisan fiscal watchdog group, for his commitment to responsibly reducing our deficits.”
There’s not a lot News12 Connecticut is going to be able to do about content on Jim Himes’ website.
All of which could lead one to believe that Obsitnik’s advertising objection was perhaps intended more as an advertisement of his own – and a low-cost one at that, assuming enough media outlets choose to write about it.