Legal Q: Misrepresenting what somebody says in a political ad

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.

Interesting link. Thanks!!

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.

If the person is not named, I highly suspect it’s an actor paid to say things like “I’m worried about taxes,” and “I’m voting for Bloggins!” with just the right amount of inflection.

Also a good point and probably correct.

Just for the fun, hypothetically, if Person A is a Joe Schmo and is misrepresented (as described above):

1 - Would they likely to win if they sue?

2 - Is there anything illegal about this?

The Lanham Act applies to trademarks, not political ads.

You can basically say anything in a political ad. That includes lying. No governmental agency can press charges. Ohio politicians can legally lie in campaign ads, appeals court says

However, if the ad took a private citizen’s comments and faked them in a way to imply an endorsement, that person might have a case for defamation. But only that person.

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.

I’m reasonaly sure such an ad would not be illegal.

However, if Person A is not a paid actor, but a person being quoted whose words and intent are distorted by the producers, they might have some legal recourse through civil court.

Do you know how to tell when a politician is lying … their mouth is moving … haha

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.

That’s why I only vote for ventriloquists.

I usually vote for the dummy. :frowning: