Thursday, September 09, 2010

Do You Believe Your Own Eyes? (Updated)

Our “Light Saqib, Dark Saqib” story has now been covered by both the Huffington Post and WAMU. Nancy King’s campaign manager, Amy Yockus Hartman, sent both outlets this statement:

First off, at no time, in any way whatsoever, did we, or would we, alter photos or attempt to insinuate anything about Delegate Saqib Ali other than the verified facts we have consistently laid out through this campaign -- the fact that he fell asleep and missed a crucial vote on education funding, and the fact that he broke his promise to reject special interest funding and then accepted $50,000 in corporate and PAC money.
The statement is obviously preposterous.

Light Saqib and Dark Saqib both appear on the same page of King’s mailer. They do not appear on different pages that could have been subject to variations in print quality.

Here is a close-up of the two Saqibs side-by-side.

King’s campaign manager could have claimed that the print shop screwed up, or a staffer screwed up, or there was a miscommunication. Vanessa Atterbeary used a similar excuse when explaining her misleading mailer to the Gazette. Atterbeary’s explanation was lame and hard to believe, but it was not demonstrably false. Hartman’s statement is.

Hartman told HuffPost, “…at no time, in any way whatsoever, did we, or would we, alter photos” of Ali. But look at the two Saqibs. The one on the right is an obvious mirror image of the one on the left. Just look at the stripes on Ali’s tie! So she wants us to believe that these two images are utterly unrelated because she would never, ever alter a photo “in any way whatsoever.” And that leaves aside the issue of darkening.

This race has seen its fair share of truth stretching from both sides. MPW founder David Lublin called out Ali for misusing a blog quote in one of his mailers, and your author called out both candidates for mischaracterizing our work. But Hartman’s blanket denial of photo alteration is on a completely different level because it contradicts our own eyes.

Some care about the darkening and others don’t. Some believe it’s a big deal, others believe it’s minor and some believe it’s not an issue at all. But a campaign’s truthfulness is ALWAYS an issue. Voters don’t have the time to fact-check everything they see in campaign materials. They either trust the source or they don’t. King’s campaign has invested tremendous time and energy in documenting Ali’s faults on their negative website and their negative blog. Most of the information there appears to be fair game since they are talking about votes, bill sponsorships and attendance. But to waste all that research and the credibility required to make it stick by making an obviously false statement to the media is a serious mistake. Even for a casual observer, it can call into question everything King’s campaign says about Ali – especially their allegation that the now-famous Sleeping Saqib pictures were actually taken during a General Assembly vote.

On September 3, I wrote that Senator King was “responsive, forthright and unpretentious – an unusual combination for a politician.” I stand by those words. But King’s staff is running amok and they are creating serious problems for their client. Every candidate needs to remember that when the campaign is over, the staff will disappear, the allied operatives and consultants will go back to Annapolis or wherever else they came from, and everything that has happened will be laid directly at the feet of... the candidate.

Update: The Washington Post Maryland Politics blog picked up the story as well.

Update 2: Think Progress has picked up the story too.