Sweeney Red Handed and Red Faced
John Sweeney just can't keep his cool over the recent Caught Red Handed Ads. (See more info on the content of the ads here.) The Post Star reports that Sweeney's lawyer is threatening a law suit:
...Joe Seeman, a regional organizer for MoveOn.org, said the group will continue to speak about Sweeney and the Iraq war.
"The more they intimidate us, the more we will speak up and say, 'Sweeney is caught red-handed,' " he said. "I'll say personally to E. Stewart Jones, 'Sue me.' "
If Sweeney does file a lawsuit, it probably would not be heard until after the election, when it would be too late to stop the commercials anyway, said Paul McMasters, a First Amendment expert with The Freedom Forum in Arlington, Va.
McMasters said he doubted an argument based on the dictionary definition of red-handed would hold muster in court.
"I think it would be a tough battle to make in court," he said.
Regardless, he said, a candidate benefits by threatening legal action, either by convincing television stations not to run the ad, or simply by creating exposure for arguments against the ad.
"If anyone thinks it's a polite sport with a lot of rules, then they haven't watched political campaigns," he said.
NewsChannel 13 was continuing to air the ad, despite receiving a second letter Thursday from Jones objecting to it, said Stephen Baboulis, the station's general manager.
"I know they're not pleasant to the congressman, but our lawyer has determined it's not defamatory," Baboulis said.
...WTEN-TV Channel 10 and WXXA-TV Channel 23 agreed not to air either ad, said Jones, the lawyer for Sweeney.
Management at the two stations did not return messages The Post-Star left seeking comment Thursday afternoon.
Robert Turner, a political science professor at Skidmore College, said it is unusual for television stations to decline to air political commercials.
"Normally political campaign speech is afforded pretty broad latitude about how truthful it has to be," he said.
Chris Brunner, news director at Capital News 9, said it is unusual for a politician to threaten legal action over a commercial.
"Just in general, people complain about their ads," he said. "But they usually just reply to them on air."... (Post Star, note subscription required)
How goofey is Sweeny? Instead of buying his own ad, he's throwing money at a lawyer to bully local tv stations into declining the Moveon.org ads (and the revenue they'd bring to our local economy). Sweeney is something else, when he doesn't get his way, he bullies people into silence, this is the man who took office and swore to uphold our constitution and its right to freedom of speech.