by Kyle Swenson
Grannygate is the big headline across the political spectrum today, and we bet you never thought you'd be reading that phrase in anything besides a pitch for some kind of protective fence for your more fancy-of-foot elders. But there it is. The term has even been bestowed with its own hashtag on Twitter, so now you know we're really cooking with a news story.
But all this first-blush outrage aside, the story is important because it might toss some light on the (bad) thinking guiding one side in this contentious political battle.
The basic facts involve a
shameless amateurish move on the part of supporters of Governor Kasich's collective bargaining bill. Building a Better Ohio, the pro-Issue 2* group, recently released a video featuring great-grandmother Marlene Quinn. In the spot, which you can peep below, the Cincinnati resident recounts how an emergency rescue crew saved her granddaughter Zoey from a fire.
“If not for the fire fighters, we wouldn't have our Zoey today,” Quinn says, before a slick female voice pushes in with: “That's right. By voting no on Issue 2, our safety will be threatened.”
The flames . . . Mrs. Quinn . . . poor Zoey . . . — it really started to floor our eyeballs too, no damn reason to be ashamed. The only problem, it turns out, is that the footage of Quinn was simply copy-and-pasted from another source: an anti-Issue 2 ad commissioned by We Are Ohio. That's right, they hijacked the footage from a clip attacking their position, only to repurpose it for the exact opposite of its original intent. This would be like if you took a 10-second clip of Dylan signing the chorus to “The Times They are A-Changin'” and used it to score a spot for the George Wallace campaign.
See for yourself.
The original video starts off with the exact same lines from Quinn: “If not for the fire fighters, we wouldn't have our Zoey today,” but then, after a beat or two, the grandmother breaks back in with: “That's why it is so important to vote 'no' on Issue Two.” And it's not like Quinn drops her Zoey lines and then lets a narrator dog the Republicans and their attack on the middle class. Oh no. As the clip continues, the great-grandmother delivers those verbal punches herself — she's the only voice in the commercial.
We Are Ohio is obviously pissed that its intellectual property has been pirated so openly. According to The Plain Dealer, Donald J. McTigue, an attorney for the group, sent a cease-and-desist letter to TV stations airing the ad. The stations were also sent a letter from Mrs. Quinn, in which she specifically says, “I never provided consent to anyone to use my likeness to advocate in support of Senate Bill 5 or Issue 2. I demand that all television stations and other forms of media immediately stop airing this misleading advertisement by Building a Better Ohio.”
We Are Ohio is claiming that 27 stations have pulled the offending ad. According to The Plain Dealer, Building a Better Ohio spokesman Jason Mauk contested that number before launching into a pretty flimsy explanation for the granny-jacking.
Mauk said by appearing in the We Are Ohio ad Quinn made herself a public figure and thus use of her image is legal and fair game. He argued that the points Quinn made in the We Are Ohio commercial for repealing the law could also be points for keeping Senate Bill 5.
"We're absolutely not conceding our position on this. We have every right to broadcast this ad," Mauk said. "The person featured in this ad is a public figure and stations are legally obligated to allow this ad to air."
That, sir, is just daft. No offense, but if you're going to do something as blatant as this, you gotta have better game on defense. See, warring political campaigns borrow material from each other all the time for refutation in their own ads — but they cite the material. That's kind of the point — if they're trying to shoot down Quinn's original statement, they need to let the audience know that she was speaking for the other side for the refutation to be . . . well . . . an actual refutation. Or, if they're trying to make the point that Quinn's original argument “could also be points for keeping Senate Bill 5,” then they have to make that explicit. As is, this is just intellectually dishonest, any way you cut it.
Which really brings up the question about why pro-Issue 2 forces would blunder like this? This kind of bad thinking might be a sign the campaign to keep Senate Bill 5 in place isn't as well run or organized as it may appear on the surface. Maybe funding is an issue? Seriously, doesn't Building a Better Ohio have enough stacks of RNC cash propping up the coffee table in their secret underground lair to fund a search for an actual Ohio granny whose opinions and story dovetail with their platform? Is this a matter of finding the staff? There's gotta be some college Republicans who could handle the grunt work for a signed photo of the governor.
On the whole, the effort comes off as lame — pure amateur hour. Karl Rove is somewhere shaking that considerable sinister dome of his. Ohio deserves a better class of dirty politics than this.
* Just to keep this straight, because all these “issues” and numbers fog up our comprehension: Issue 2 is the ballot issue that will decided whether or not there should be a referendum on Senate Bill 5. If you are against Senate Bill 5, you want to vote “no” on Issue 2. If you are pro-Senate Bill 5, you want to vote “yes” on Issue 2. Okay class, now all together this time . . .