Ron Johnson, Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Senate candidate, is incensed about a misleading ad from Democratic rival Russ Feingold. Feingold's "In His Own Words" ad used clips from TV newscasts about Johnson's Oshkosh plastics factory receiving $4 million in government aid. These clips are juxtaposed with embarrassing clips of Johnson railing against government subsidies: "I have never lobbied for some special treatment or for a government payment!"
Johnson's "Like the Rest of Them" ad attacks Feingold's ad for "pretending to be a news report." According to the Johnson ad, Madison's WKOW 27 "says Feingold took their report out of context, and that it's just plain wrong." The Johnson ad goes on to claim that "the Associated Press says Feingold's ad is misleading and Ron Johnson's loans came from private investors."
Okay, let's talk about misleading.
WKOW did say that Feingold took its newscast out of context. But it's the fact that he took it out of context, without permission, that WKOW called "just plain wrong." The way the Johnson ad phrases it, the viewer could easily think that "just plain wrong" refers to Feingold's claim about Johnson accepting government aid.
Johnson is similarly misleading about the Associated Press article. The article does call Feingold's ad "misleading," and it affirms that the money Johnson got from a state-run program "came from private investors." On the other hand, the article acknowledges the truth of Feingold's claim that "Johnson has opposed government assistance for others even though his own business benefited from a government program."
So there you have it: a misleading ad about a misleading ad. If Feingold responds with another misleading ad of his own, I recommend just turning off the TV.
Isthmus TV critic Dean Robbins will assess candidate commercials throughout the 2010 fall elections in this regular feature. Read more reviews of political campaign spots.