FCC Tells NH TV Station It Must Run Anti-Bush Ad

July 7, 2008 - 8:25 PM

Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - The Federal Communications Commission has told the state's largest commercial television station it must run an ad critical of Texas Governor George W Bush, even though the spot contains unproven allegations.

The ad, paid for by Andy Martin, a Florida man who has been a frequent candidate for political office, contends Bush has used cocaine and abused alcohol.

In the ad, Martin charges, "George Bush had a cocaine problem. His brain suffered from alcohol abuse. Don't trust Bush with your vote until he trusts you with the truth about his past."

The GOP front runner has repeatedly refused to answer questions about his past, including allegations of drug use, choosing instead to insist he has not used illegal drugs since 1975.

While the ad alleges cocaine use, no one has ever produced evidence of it.

An FCC spokesman said stations must air ads, if they are paid for by another qualified candidate, and, as long as the candidate appears in the spot.

"Even if the (television) station knows for a certainty that this information is false, because of the no-censorship provision in the equal-time law, the station has no choice other that to broadcast it, " said Bobby Baker, the head of political programming for the FCC.

However, Baker added, courts have protected stations airing such ads by refusing to hold them liable.

Ari Fleischer, a Bush spokesman, said the campaign has never asked that the ad not be run, noting that's a decision the television station must make. "It's part of the unfortunate nonsense that can come with political campaigns. "These things are as mean spirited as they are inaccurate'" he said.

In Manchester, the state's largest city, WMUR-TV spokesman Julie Campasano said the station has given no consideration to not airing the spot. "The law is the law. The FCC says a legally-qualified candidate can say whatever they want to say in their message and we, as a station, have no right to censor or otherwise edit any of the spots."

The ad also became the subject of an editorial in Wednesday's Manchester Union Leader, the state's conservative and largest newspaper.

'What is really egregious is that federal law forces WMUR to give equal access air time to all eligible candidates. Broadcast stations are not permitted to reject an advertisement if it makes false or questionable allegations."

"It's wrong for the media to dismiss as 'nviable'minor candidates who poll in the single digits, but it's also unfair that the federal government prevents them from dismissing any garbage a candidate puts out. This episode should serve as a warning to advocates of more government regulations on political campaigns - with the federal government's logic, one never knows what the end result will be," wrote the newspaper's Editorial Page Editor Bernadette Malone Connolly.