A new Mitt Romney campaign ad passes off opinions of a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush as though they were from a newspaper’s reporters or editors. It’s a political trick used by both sides: hijacking a news organization’s credibility.
In this example, the Romney ad attacks President Obama’s mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance that includes free contraception. It attributes to the San Antonio Express-News the words: “Obama’s Insurance Decision Declares War on Religion.”
But the newspaper didn’t say that in any editorial or news article. That headline appeared over anopinion piece by a nationally syndicated columnist who has worked for Republicans in the past. And to make this example worse, the same columnist later softened his “war on religion” opinion after the president modified the mandate.
We’ve seen plenty of this sort of thing, from both parties. For instance, earlier this year, one ad, from a group that says it’s supported by veterans, claimed that the Washington Post said Obama had “shameless gall” to use Osama bin Laden’s death to score political points. But the Post didn’t say that. Instead, the words appeared in a headline over a piece by a long-time Republican operative and lobbyist. A recent Obama ad hijacks CNN’s credibility by attributing the opinions of two outside contributors to the network, using a barely legible disclaimer that it’s from an “op-ed.”