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Friday, August 25, 2006

NY-20: Sweeney Hires Celeb Lawyer to Harass TV Stations

Posted by DavidNYC

Who knew that Rep. John Sweeney was such a WATB? From the Albany Times-Union blog:

U.S. Rep. John Sweeney has gotten one of the region’s best known lawyers to ask TV stations to pull a brutal MoveOn.Org ad against the congressman.

The letter comes after Sweeney’s campaign spokeswoman, Maureen O’Brien Donovan, was apparently unsuccessful in trying to persuade the stations to stop airing the “red handed” ad.


Both ads, however, use the “caught red-handed'’ theme, which, [Stewart] Jones wrote, falsely implies Sweeney has done something illegal.

Perfect WATB behavior: When your press flack can't whine loudly enough, you call in the high-priced lawyers to whine a little louder. Of course, this joke definition of the word "red-handed" doesn't meet the laugh test - unless you think little kids who get caught with their hands in the cookie jar are going to jail.

Undoubtedly, the in-house counsel for these various TV stations realize any defamation claim by Sweeney is almost certainly frivolous. It's very hard to defame a public official under American law. The issue, though, is that a station might have to spend a lot of money getting such a case dismissed. So when the bean-counters do a cost-benefit analysis, they all-too-often decide they're better off not running the ads.

Which is why it's so important that we express our support for MoveOn and the TV stations. In a key way, this really is about freedom of speech. Yes, the stations are private companies - but they are broadcasting on public aiwaves (owned by you and me), at the public's sufferance. They control access to a public commons, and it's vital that they let all voices be heard.

And besides, if John Sweeney (and Randy Kuhl and Charlie Bass) don't like MoveOn's speech, the classic response is always to engage in more speech of your own. Curtailing the speech of others is just un-American.

So if you are in NY-20, you should be writing letters to the editor, in support of MoveOn and the stations and opposing Sweeney. You should also call and write to the stations (saying "attaboy!"), and also call and write to the Sweeney campaign (telling them to knock it off). The relevant stations are:

CBS 6 Albany (WRGB)



Fox 23 News (WXXA)

Capital News 9

Also, definitely let the Albany-Times Union know how you feel - either via an LTE or in the comments of the above-linked blog post (or both). As always, be civil and keep it short - you're much more likely to get heard that way.

Posted at 02:04 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Media, New York | Technorati

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I think one of Moveon's tactics has been, when stations are faced with a lawsuit, they've increased their ad buys to provide more of an economic incentive for the station to keep running the ads.

Posted by: James L. [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 03:43 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The young lady that Sweeney came onto while drunk with the frat boys should counter-sue him.

I almost hope Bass tries the same thing; then we can start to have a debate on the Iraq war in NH.

Posted by: yankeedoodler [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 25, 2006 07:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Yu reap what you sow whiner John "Red-Handed" Sweeney.
Did this station run the Swift Boats ad against Kerry?

Posted by: Predictor [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 26, 2006 12:59 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The Kuhl campaign claims that a channel in Rochester has yanked the ads. I suspect this is not true, however. I posted about this earlier today at

Posted by: TomT [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 26, 2006 02:30 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment