Ohio Democratic Party Calls on Ohio News Stations to Pull Down GOP Ad That Lies About Democratic Supreme Court Candidates
November 1, 2022
Columbus, OH — Today, the Ohio Democratic Party wrote to news stations around the state calling on them to pull down a false and misleading ad run by Republicans that misrepresents the records of Democrats running for the Ohio Supreme Court. Late last week, the Ohio Bar Association asked the Republican State Leadership Committee to take down the misleading ad. In its letter, the Ohio Bar Association asserts that the ad: “grossly oversimplif(ies) their (Democrats’) opinions just to score political points” and “serves to erode public trust and confidence in the judiciary.”
“Republicans are so desperate to distract from their records and cling on to control that they’ve resorted to lying about the Democratic candidates running for Ohio Supreme Court. This is exactly the kind of nasty politics Ohioans are so tired of seeing from the GOP-controlled Supreme Court. We’re asking that news stations do the right thing and stop running this irresponsible ad, especially so close to Election Day,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chair Elizabeth Walters.
Find the full letter to TV news stations HERE and below:
Dear Station Manager:
I am legal counsel for the Ohio Democratic Party. I write with regard to an advertisement by the Republican State Leadership Committee (“RSLC”). The text of the advertisement is attached. This advertisement is a gross oversimplification to the point that it is deliberating false, misleading and deceptive, and knowingly misstates the legal rulings of Justice Jennifer Brunner, and Judges Terri Jamison and Marilyn Zayas. The Ohio State Bar Association (“OSBA”) has asked the RSLC to take down the advertisement, as it “grossly oversimplifies their (Democrats’) opinions just to score political points” and “serves to erode public trust and confidence in the judiciary.” Their letter to the RSLC is attached. While we agree with OSBA’s opposition to the misleading advertisement, we have no faith that the RSLC will take down the advertisement themselves. However, stations like yours have FCC licensing requirements to adhere to, which are grounded by the public interest against misleading political advertisements. For these reasons, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement.
The RSLC advertisement makes several factual assertions that are false, misleading, and/or deceptive. To begin, the advertisement mischaracterizes the DuBose case with this accusation: “Jennifer Brunner and Democrat justices on the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of lowering an alleged murderer’s bail.” First, this statement is deliberately false, as it was a bipartisan decision by the Ohio Supreme Court to lower the unconstitutionally excessive bail at issue from $1,500,000 to $500,000 for a defendant that had no financial means to pay.
Additionally, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision took no issue with a 24-hour lockdown enforced by electronic monitoring for DuBose, among other restrictions.
Next, the advertisement accused Judge Marilyn Zayas of throwing out a murder conviction. In fact, Judge Zayas was part of a majority decision that set aside an aggravated murder conviction but only to set the matter for a new trial for murder or felony murder, because prosecutors failed to demonstrate that the defendant acted with “prior calculation and design” as required by law.
The advertisement wants the viewer to draw the conclusion that Judge Zayas set a murderer free, when the truth is far from RSLC’s mischaracterization. Last, Judge Jamison was accused of writing an opinion that “would have thrown out evidence of drugs seized legally by police.” This is flat out false, as Judge Jamison’s dissenting opinion in the referenced matter was that the drugs were seized illegally because they were obtained without a search warrant. Every assertion in this ad was intentionally designed to deliberately mislead and deceive voters, and accordingly, we ask you to cease airing it.
Additionally, I must point out the following concerning the media’s responsibility with regard to blatantly false, misleading, or deceptive ads like this one.
Unlike candidates for office, independent political organizations like RSLC do not have a “right to command the use of broadcast facilities.” See CBS v. DNC, 412 U.S. 94, 113 (1973). Because you need not air this advertisement, your station bears responsibility for its content when you do grant access. See Felix v. Westinghouse Radio Stations, 186 F.2d 1, 6 (3rd Cir.), cert. denied, 314 U.S. 909 (1950).
Moreover, you have a duty “to protect the public from false, misleading or deceptive advertising.” Licensee Responsibility With Respect to the Broadcast of False, Misleading or Deceptive Advertising, 74 F.C.C.2d 623 (1961). Failure to prevent the airing of “false and misleading advertising” may be “probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility” that can be cause for the loss of a station’s license. Cosmopolitan Broad. Corp. v. FCC, 581 F.2d 917, 927 (D.C. Cir. 1978).
The advertisement by RSLC is false, misleading, and deceptive, and we demand that you refuse to continue to air it.