the kicker

A Media Matters Falsehood

October 15, 2009

Media Matters, which has been working with immigration reform group America’s Voice on a “Drop Dobbs” campaign, sent out a press release earlier today saying that CNN would air an ad labeling Lou Dobbs, one of the network’s stars, as a purveyor of “Anti-immigrant hate.”

The spot, which uses CNN’s logo several times, closes by urging viewers to “Tell CNN to drop the hate” by visiting the campaign’s website and signing a petition.

Media Matters says it is dedicated to debunking conservative “misinformation … that is not accurate, reliable, or credible … and obscures the truth.”

But today they themselves put out a press release that was not accurate, reliable, or credible by plainly—and cleverly—stating that their ad would “air on CNN on October 21 and 22, during CNN’s heavily promoted Latino in America series.”

“To my knowledge, it’s untrue,” said CNN spokesperson Carolyn Disbrow when notified by CJR about the Media Matters claim. Two hours later, the network followed up with a brief formal response:

“Contrary to reports, CNN has not accepted these spots and they will not air on the network.”

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Airing the ad would have been an unusual step for CNN, which in the past has said it “retains the right to object to any ad run by the cable operator on our network whose purpose is to attack CNN or our employees.”

Media Matters spokesperson Jess Levin said that the press release “clearly didn’t say that we’d been told the ad would run.”

When asked whether or not the press release—which uses the phrases “to air on CNN,” “will air on CNN,” and “is now set to air” while mentioning specific dates for supposed broadcast on CNN—implied that the ad was a done deal, Levin said “I can see how you read it that way. But we were going on the assumption that we had purchased air time” and that therefore the ad would air.

“We didn’t say that the ad was going to run anywhere in the press release,” Levin maintained.

When asked if she thought the press release was deceptive, Levin said “it would have been deceptive if we’d heard from CNN that the ad was not going to run.” Levin denied with a flat “no” any suggestion that the press release saying the ad would air was an attempt to get attention for an ad they well knew would be rejected.

Two Politico blogs, since corrected, relayed the original Media Matters claim.

Among many other complaints, the Drop Dobbs site points out that the broadcaster “has consistently used his national platform to spread misinformation” and “falsehoods.”

Not unlike Media Matters’s use of its press list today.

You can watch the ad, as Media Matters would certainly like you to, below.

Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.