An old, discredited talking point makes a comeback

AN OLD, DISCREDITED TALKING POINT MAKES A COMEBACK…. Last year, as the debate over health care reform intensified, Republicans not only turned on the individual-mandate idea that they’d come up with, they also desperately tried to make it as scary as possible. That meant repeating one message over and over again: if you don’t get insurance, the government will put you in jail.

In fact, this was a major part of the offensive for a while. Glenn Beck told Fox News’ audience that “there will be jail time” for those who refuse to participate in the health care system. Dick Morris said the same thing, arguing, “One of the provisions in the Pelosi bill is you actually can go to jail for not having health insurance.” A year ago, a “Fox & Friends” on-screen graphic during told viewers during a segment on the health care debate, “Comply or go to jail.”

The argument didn’t really go anywhere, and for the most part, Republicans moved on to other attacks. By April, Bill O’Reilly pretended the entire argument never happened, insisting, “[Y]ou don’t know anybody on Fox News — because there hasn’t been anyone — that said people will go to jail if they don’t buy mandatory insurance… [W]e researched to find out if anybody had ever said you are going to jail if you don’t buy health insurance. Nobody has ever said it.” (He was blatantly lying.)

Unfortunately, the nonsense is back. A shadowy far-right outfit called American Action Network is attacking Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a new ad for supporting a health care law that means, among other things, “jail time for anyone without coverage.”

That’s the bad news. The good news, as Greg Sargent reports today, is that a Connecticut station will not run the deceptive spot.

FoxCT, the local Fox affiliate, informed the Murphy campaign that it would stop running the American Action Network ad after the Murphy camp sent the station a letter detailing the ad’s falsehoods, the Murphy campaign confirms.

“We have verified that the ad in question is not accurate and will pull their schedule going forward,” a FoxCT executive wrote to the Murphy campaign in an email sent my way. “I hope you have reached out to the other stations and they follow the same course.”

I’m told other another Connecticut station may follow suit.

It’s always heartening when this happens. I’ve long believed ads would be less deceptive if stations refused to air spots that could be proven false.

What’s more, as Greg keeps reminding us, the larger point is that these shadowy organizations aren’t just trying to sway elections with secret money, they’re doing so with ads intended to mislead the public.

Postscript: For the record, in case there’s any lingering confusion, those who refuse to buy insurance would be subjected to a fine, but the law specifies that “such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution.” The American Action Network simply intended to lie and hope voters wouldn’t know the difference.