So I’m watching a political ad and I observed basically the following:
Person A: John Bloggins.
Person B: He really cares about the people.
Person A: is doing a lot for families.
Now they are implying that Person A said “John Bloggins is doing a lot for families.” Now if the interview went something like: “Person A is blah blah blah. He is doing a lot for families.” but they wanted to get the “John Bloggins” in there. Assuming that is what happened there’s no real problem.
However, suppose that Person A had actually said “John Bloggins is a real jerk. Jane Bliggins is doing a lot families.” Would it be legal to present the statements in the fashion above?
The closest I can find is theLanham Act and the doctrine of “false endorsement.” However, the courts in general apply vastly different standards for political speech and standard advertising, and I don’t know if they would apply the Lanham Act to anything political.
In addition to the point you raise, I wonder if it would apply in this case if Person A is just a regular Joe Schmo instead of a celebrity. In the case of the ad I saw, the person is not named so doesn’t seem to be a celebrity.
It’s almost certain that anyone shooting real people for campaign commercials would have Joe Schmo sign a release that pretty clearly states it’s for the Bloggins campaign (or some political committee). That release is probably iron-clad.
Now, if they didn’t get a release from Schmo, he could probably sue, but that would be under the same law that lets anyone sue for being used for commercial purposes without their consent. Nothing special for politics.
If by “illegal” you mean can someone go to jail, I don’t think so, but IANAL.
Here in Minnesota, there are specific state laws that prohibit false claims of Political Party Endorsement. I was subpoenaed as a witness in one such case.
They are enforced. And quite extensively; the “directly” part applied to even using the initials of the political party, and the “indirectly” part to covering the colors or design of a party sample ballot. The penalties levied for violations are significant; usually sizable financial costs, even in one case ordering a special election.
This law was challenged by a Republican Party official in 2015, going as far as the US Supreme Court, but was upheld by the courts.