I was recently invited to speak as a panelist at a Civic Dialogue about “Mudslinging,” or negative campaigning as it related to the race for Florida Governor last week.
As one of four experts who also included the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, a representative of the League of Women’s Voters along with an attorney and communications law professor, the public forum open to interested students, faculty and staff, focused on whether or not politicians have an ethical obligation to provide truth in advertising. Of course, I outlined a few points and planned one of my first lines: “I remember what my mom used to say: Don’t tell me anything unless it’s the whole truth!”
The commercials we watched all contained mudslinging and failed to present all sides of arguments. But, as the Supervisor of Elections pointed out, the commercials are often paid for by outside organizations and not the actual candidate. Still, the negative ads deter voters in my opinion and I think candidates should be able to control their supporters by not mudslinging. During the dialogue, I brought up the website Politifact that helps citizens find truth in politics after telling the audience: “We don’t know what we don’t know. If I tell you my 90-year-old grandma plowed into your car at the roundabout, you’re going to be mad at her, but if I tell you my 90-year-old grandma plowed into your car at the roundabout after you blew the stop sign, you’re not going to be so mad at her anymore, are you? So it’s all about presenting all sides and it’s not always easy to spot when there’s important information missing.”
In the end, however, I can see both sides because those campaign ads bring in big bucks, like $22 million in TV ads or something crazy like that, according to the Miami Herald. And those TV people have to keep their cushy couches and corner offices somehow, right?