One expects hyperbolic rhetoric during a political convention and in a political campaign, but an insidious method of attracting or convincing voters increasingly being used by candidates on both sides of the aisle should stop.
The manipulation of photos or video footage to make a point or tell a story that is blatantly false is on our minds. To us, there are few lower forms of political communication, and the use of manipulated images ought to tell voters more about the candidate or group promoting it than the candidate being smeared.
It was wrong when U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann used it on Republican primary opponent Weston Wamp in 2014, it was wrong when U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty used it on Republican primary opponent Dr. Manny Sethi this year and it was wrong when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) used it during its virtual convention Wednesday night on President Donald Trump.
We called out Fleischmann and Hagerty at the time, but the national media won't take the DNC to task because of their bias. When that is the situation, it becomes that much more difficult to convince candidates or groups that there is anything wrong with what they are doing.
But, in fact, it's tremendously wrong. It's low, and it's scurrilous.
It may have been just one of many examples at the Democrats' virtual convention this week, but we're thinking specifically of an edited message purporting to show Trump calling children held in illegal immigrant detention centers "animals."
Even more pathetic, the DNC used the voice of a young girl over spliced video of Trump's comments saying children were orphaned "because of" Trump.
"These aren't people," the president is shown saying in the video clip. "I don't want them in our country. They're animals."
Even worse than the DNC using the footage is that it is from 2018 and has been repeatedly debunked by multiple fact-checkers, including left-leaning Snopes.
Nevertheless, a year after the actual remarks, an edited version of them went viral, purportedly showing Trump echoing Nazi leader Adolph Hitler in calling illegal immigrants animals. Left-wing media ran with the edited version, with USA Today saying the president was using "rhetoric with a dark past" and connecting him to Hitler, and the Vocal Progressives Facebook page linking the two men with memes of what they supposedly said.
The truth is the president was having a conversation with Fresno County, California, Sheriff Margaret Mims, who was frustrated at the intelligence-sharing between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and local authorities as well as the ability to identify and locate illegal immigrants who had committed crimes or were suspected of doing so. In doing so, she referred to "bad guys" and the violent criminal gang MS-13.
To that, Trump responded, "We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in — we're stopping a lot of them — but we're taking people out of the country, you wouldn't believe how bad these people are. These aren't people, these are animals. And we're taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that's never happened before."
A spliced version of the above remarks is what Democrats knowingly used and aired before a national audience Wednesday. How low is it to falsely use children to make your point, to knowingly pander to voters by employing a family's most vulnerable treasure?
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who nevertheless supports the party"s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, told The Washington Post earlier this week Democrats have been arrogant and holier-than-thou in their messaging. He said it was not what his party should be doing and not the way to attract average Americans, who have increasingly become Republican voters.
"If we're not standing up for the trucker, the waitress or the retail clerk, who are we standing up for?" Yang said. "Democrats have this tendency to have a message out there and then if you don't like the message, it's like, well, it's your fault. There's this patronizing element to a lot of what we say and do, and it's hurting us, and it's wrong, unproductive, it's a great way to not win."
We were reading recently in a new book about the discussions that ensued in 1988 about the use of an ad by the presidential campaign of Republican George H.W. Bush. The ad highlighted the work release program employed by the gubernatorial administration of Bush's opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. That program resulted in a number of criminal acts, including a brutal assault on a couple by a convicted Black murderer named Willie Horton.
The Bush campaign's use of one ad citing the program, and a later ad by an outside group showing Horton's picture, were categorized at the time as devious and racist. But the ads, whatever one may think of them, were completely accurate and did not falsely state facts.
We may be whistling in the wind, but we believe it's time for both political parties to stop using manipulated photographs and video in advertising. Political campaigns already are scourges we must endure, but it would be nice to only have to separate hyperbole from reality.