Democratic candidate for governor Dina Titus has called her Republican opponent Jim Gibbons a liar.
Titus’s Web site carries a statement headlined, “Congressman Gibbons lies in another negative attack ad.”
The Web site statement goes on, “Congressman Jim Gibbons continues his established pattern of dishonesty and disdain for Nevada’s voters by lying about Dina Titus in a new attack ad released today.”
Normally, candidates for office will use softer terms like “misinformation” or “mistaken.” What provoked the use of the L-word was Gibbons’ second television spot, which claims that Titus supports driver licenses for illegal aliens.
Actually, Titus was quoted in a June 5 Las Vegas Sun story (that was the basis for the Gibbons spot) as saying that she would support licenses only if aliens were in citizenship programs—”Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson supports giving driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and state Sen. Dina Titus, Democratic candidates for governor, would back giving driver’s licenses to immigrants enrolled in programs that may come out of the current congressional debate.”
A later clarification in the newspaper reiterated the point—”Titus said Wednesday that she supports allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses under one of two conditions: if they are enrolled in a guest-worker program or are working to gain citizenship under provisions of immigration reform legislation pending in Congress. A story in the Sun on Monday said that Titus supported driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants without qualification.”
But the Gibbons spot claims that Titus supports drivers licenses for illegal aliens without qualification.
In their raucous debate Monday evening, Gibbons claimed that Nevada television stations had certified to the accuracy of the commercials by running them—”And as obviously, the television stations haven’t taken them down. They’d be obligated to take them down if they weren’t factually supported.”
Gibbons’ statement is not accurate. Television stations are required by law to run candidate advertising and are indemnified from liability for false information or offensive content in them.
Stations have more control over ads run by political action committees, but candidate advertising is sacrosanct. In one Georgia case, a television station was forced to run a television spot for candidate J.B. Stoner in which he used the word “nigger” several times.
The only way for a television station to avoid running candidate advertising is to refuse all political ads, as KRNV in Reno used to do when it was known as KCRL.
The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, recently described the process: “Federal law requires broadcasters to let a candidate air commercials without any editing and protects the broadcasters from legal action if what a candidate said is inaccurate or false.”
In Reno, KOLO general manager Matt James said, “The television stations do not in any way, shape, or form endorse or condemn candidates, nor do we edit or censor their messages. We are a conduit.”
At least two reporters, Ed Pearce in Reno and Jon Ralston in Las Vegas, have analyzed the Gibbons spot in “ad watch” features. Both concluded that the spot is inaccurate. They said that while the headline on the Sun story read, “Gibson, Titus back driver’s license,” the story did not support that sweeping headline.
“It turns out that she never said she supports the licenses, and nowhere is there any evidence that she has ever had that unequivocal position,” Ralston wrote. He also noted that Titus voted in the senate for two measures making drivers licenses more difficult to obtain, measures that were “lambasted by Hispanic activists as racist and anti-immigrant.”
Pearce’s on-air report on the Gibbons spot is posted on the KOLO Web site and can be replayed on home computers.