SALON: Two weeks ago, the Blue America PAC submitted ads to numerous cable television stations, newspapers and radio stations criticizing Blue Dog Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.) for his support of a bill to expand dramatically the President’s warrantless eavesdropping powers and to immunize telecoms (such as Comcast) which broke the law in enabling the Bush administration to spy on their customers with no warrants. The ads also documented that several of the lawbreaking telecoms which would benefit most from the amnesty Carney advocates donated substantial sums to his campaign (with Comcast being the largest such contributor to Carney).
The ads that were submitted were accepted by numerous newspapers and radio stations in Carney’s district, as well as one television station operator (one much smaller than Comcast). None of the companies which own those media outlets were involved in the President’s spying program nor were they criticized by the ad, and they have been running the ads for many days now.
By stark contrast, Comcast — from the moment the ad was submitted — was blatantly reluctant to broadcast the ad, insisting that numerous, extremely cumbersome “conditions” be met before they would consider accepting the ad. But even once those conditions were repeatedly met — in the form of ample “substantiation” documenting the claims made in the ad — Comcast continued to concoct additional barriers. When it was conveyed last week to Comcast’s representative that it was becoming increasingly clear that they were refusing to broadcast the ad because it was critical of the role it played in the Bush administration’s illegal spying program, and because the ad targeted a Congressman to whom Comcast representatives have contributed generously (and who is working hard to secure amnesty for Comcast), Comcast advised Blue America that it was retaining outside legal counsel to advise it on whether it should accept the ad.
Quite predictably, Comcast’s legal counsel, David Silverman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in Washington DC, wrote an email late last week (here) claiming — laughably — that Comcast has decided to reject the ad because it “would face potential liability for any defamation contained in the spot.” Silverman identified one line in the ad during which the logos of the lawbreaking telecoms (including Comcast) are displayed — “[Carney] wants to pardon phone companies who broke the law and gave thousands to his campaign” — and claimed that this statement “is factually incorrect and potentially defamatory against the entities shown.”
The very suggestion that Comcast is rejecting this ad due to fear of defamation lawsuits — rather than because the ad brings to light Comcast’s own lawbreaking and criticizes one of its favored Congressman — is just preposterous. As indicated, multiple newspapers, television and radio stations vetted the same ad and accepted it and have been broadcasting it. The only difference is that, unlike Comcast, they and their favored Congressman aren’t criticized in the ad. MORE
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