Deceptive New Romney Ad Is Key Test For Media

The Romney campaign has released an astonishingly deceptive new ad, containing a blatant, flat-out lie. The new ad actually edits together snippets of words and sentences to make it sound as if President Obama said something he did not say, and then attacks him for saying it. How will America’s news media respond? Will the public be informed that they are being lied to? And if not, what comes next — “photos” of the President robbing a bank?

The New Romney Ad

This is the new Romney ad, intended to shock opinion leaders enough to move public scrutiny away from the problems of his tax returns, conflicting statements about when he was or was not at Bain Capital, and possible possible illegal conduct.

Here is what the President actually said: (from Monday’s post, The Latest Lie: “You Didn’t Build That”)
President Obama pointed out that businesses did not build the roads and bridges that help them get their products to markets. He said that in the United States we succeed together. Here is the full quote:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Media MUST Take Sides On This

What is the purpose and function of our news media? This country was once a self-respecting democracy and the purpose of the news media was to provide needed information to the public so We, the People could make informed decisions. And people who entered the journalism profession did so to serve as watchdogs of the public interest.
That was then. Today, many say that the purpose of the media — and everything else — is to make money for those who own it. And that means respecting and never, ever going against those with the most money. And today the ambition of many in the profession is to follow a corporate career path, maybe eventually land a major-media gig. Going down that path means playing ball, not making waves, and most of all not being branded as “anti-business.” And all that means, of course, never, ever going against those with the most money.
This new journalistic model — never, ever going against those with the most money — is what the Romney campaign is counting on today.
In this model news is supposed to be “objective” and “not take sides” as long as you take a side against those who are not “business friendly.” The new standard for news reporting is to follow a “he said, she said” storyline. And always throw in a dose of “both sides do it” false equivalence.
So what about when a big, flat-out, blatant lie — a knowing fraud with clear intent to deceive people — comes down the pike? What should journalists and news organizations do then? Should they pass the buck over to snarky “two pinnochio” pretend-fact checkers, or should they take it on and warn the public?
This ad is a key test of the direction of our national news media.
The media can’t just take the usual “one side said, the other side said” approach, because we can see what “one side” actually said and it isn’t at all what “the other side” says was said. This ad is just a lie. It is a fraud against the public and democracy for a campaign for President of the United States to do this.
So, news media, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to warn the public? Or are you going to claim that “both sides do it”?

Questions For Comments

Leave a comment, what do you think?
How should the news media respond when something like this — so far out of the boundaries of conduct for American Presidential campaigns — comes along? How should the media handle blatant lies?
Is this the most deceptive ad in Presidential campaign history?
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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