The campaign for Congressional candidate Roger Marshall inserted fake images of some Kansas newspapers in a TV ad.
U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp’s campaign pounced on the challenger. “Marshall Runs Over Kansas Media” the press release from Huelskamp’s campaign manager Jimmy Keady declared.
“Roger Marshall began running a dishonest TV ad today with fake headlines,” Keady said.
The 30-second commercial opens with an image of the Wichita Eagle’s front page and the headline: “Huelskamp’s TV Ad.” It shows an accompanying story under the headline: “Tim Huelskamp: Desperate Politician.”
• The Eagle had not carried a story about the Huelskamp TV ad featuring the tape of a 911 call from a man who said Marshall almost ran over him in a pickup.
• The photo accompanying the headline had not appeared in the Eagle.
• The Eagle never has described Huelskamp as a “desperate politician.”
• The text pasted on the “front page” of the Eagle actually was from an editorial appearing in the Hutchinson News on Jan. 24, 2016, written by editor and publisher John Montgomery. The editorial criticized Huelskamp’s use of the franking privilege.
“It’s baffling,” said Phillip Brownlee, opinion editor of the Eagle.
Marshall’s commercial was intended as a response to the sudden introduction into the campaign by Huelskamp, R-Kan., of a 2008 case in Barton County District Court involving Marshall.
“It’s actually a negative ad about the opponent’s negative ads,” Montgomery said.
The misdemeanor criminal charges against Marshall arose in a feud with property owner Randy Suchy. It wound up a traffic infraction — after one dismissed count, a no-contest plea by Marshall to a misdemeanor charge, and an amended journal entry by the judge. A civil case in which Suchy sued for medical expenses was settled. Details of the settlement are not public record.
The new ad from Marshall, a Republican from Great Bend, opens with the narrator saying:
“Tim Huelskamp’s ugly smears against Roger Marshall, the desperate last gasp of a career politician. Newspapers say Huelskamp’s spreading disinformation, deliberately misleading, the dirtiest campaign Kansas has seen. That’s Congressman Huelskamp’s legacy.”
The mastheads of newspapers flash on the screen with banner headlines and photos of Huelskamp.
The headlines, however, are fabricated from language in editorials written months before the Huelskamp campaign’s commercial featuring the 911 call.
At The Hays Daily News, Editor and Publisher Patrick Lowry said the words — “’Disinformation’” and “Lies” — used in headlines in the TV ad came from an editorial he wrote in 2014 blasting Huelskamp on health care transparency.
“I’m familiar with the tactic,” said Kevin Smith, former chairman of the Society of Professional Journalists’ ethics committee.
“That doesn’t dismiss the fact that he’s using deceit,” Smith said, to try to convince voters the newspapers are backing him.
Newspapers “victimized” by this tactic need “to call him out,” Smith said.
“Politicians love to use newspaper coverage of the campaigns — twisting it or distorting it if necessary — in their television ads,” Montgomery said.
“If they care what newspaper readers think, they ought to advertise in newspapers. But television ads allow them to play on people’s emotions with sound bites and ominous portrayals of their opponents. In a newspaper ad, they might actually have to talk about the issues in an intelligent fashion.”
The Marshall campaign defended the ad by citing the editorials used to make the headlines. It didn’t reveal the source of the phony headline appearing in the Hutchinson News that referred to “A Shameful Legacy” for Huelskamp.