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FOX News Goes After Google, “MoveOn.Org’s Partner In Crime”

Reported by Ellen - October 12, 2007 -

Last night (10/11/07), Hannity & Colmes accused Google of being in cahoots with MoveOn.org because the internet giant denied a couple of Republican ads critical of MoveOn’s “General Betray us” ads. The “we report, you decide” network didn’t bother to do any investigation into the issue, nor did it have any spokesperson from Google or the would-be advertisers. In addition, both conservative pundits misrepresented what a copyright violation is (Google's stated reason for denying the ads) then declared no violation had occurred. But in the scripted introduction read by Alan Colmes, FOX News nonetheless accused Google of “going political.” With video.

I don’t recall any outrage from “fair and balanced” FOX News when Verizon refused to allow NARAL Pro-Choice America to use a text messaging program. But Google’s denial of the Republican ads was Hannity & Colmes’ top story of the show. Colmes read in his intro, “Google said that the rejected ads, which criticized MoveOn.org, violated the company’s copyright infringement policy.” But, he continued, “Many are now saying the removals suggest MoveOn.org likely complained to Google about the ads and Google bent to the pressure, some say.” I think he ad libbed the "some say" as a qualifier. No evidence was offered to support the contention that MoveOn had in fact complained to Google.

Kate Obenshain, the world’s most doltish Republican pundit (and hence my favorite on Hannity & Colmes) started out by getting completely tongue-tied. Then she confused copyright infringement with trademark violation. “They’re claiming a trademark violation,” she falsely said, then seemed to think that a copyright infringement meant some kind of slander. “There’s no disparagement protection. You can say what you want about a company,” she said. “They’ve just chosen that if they’re going to be critical of their partner-in-crime, basically, MoveOn.org, they have a long relationship together, partnering together.” What grounds did Obenshain have to conclude that MoveOn and Google have a long relationship together? She didn’t say.

Unfortunately, Colmes, who usually seems to enjoy shredding Obenshain’s punditry, didn’t call her on either her misunderstanding of copyright violation or her baseless assertion about the relationship between MoveOn and Google.

Fortunately, the other guest, Harold Ford, Jr. got it. He hit all the right points in this segment. “Why are we still talking about this ad?” He asked right at the beginning.

“When are we going to get to the business of trying to figure out where the Republican nominee stands on the serious issue of Iraq, where the Democratic nominee stands and let’s have a robust debate about that.” He wisely hammered on the Iraq war throughout the discussion.

Colmes picked up that ball and ran with it. He noted that Republicans would rather focus on one word in an ad “rather than have to deal with the actual events going on and the policy that is indefensible.”

The still pinless Obenshain made the lame argument that Republicans weren’t the ones influencing the discussion, “Google did, by censoring this ad.”

Lowry also seemed to confuse copyright law with trademark law and then accused Google of falsely applying it.

Ford responded, “You should have Google’s CEO on and let them make the defense.” Then he adroitly brought the topic round to the war again. “There’s a larger issue here. We find ourselves embroiled, as you well know… embroiled in a war that we all want to win. It’s unclear if refereeing a civil war the way we’re doing it, it can be successful, it’s unclear if the surge can last much longer with public support being there for it… That should be where the debate should be centered.”

Don’t hold your breath, Harold. But kudos on a job well done.

UPDATE: Some of the commenters have pointed out that Google claimed the ads were, in fact, rejected on the grounds of trademark violation, not a copyright infringement. Colmes said in the scripted introduction that Google called the ads a copyright infringement, so I assumed that was the issue. I didn't see the rejected ads so I'm not sure. But I could see it going either way, meaning if the rejected ad used MoveOn's logo, I think that would be trademark violation. But if they lifted too much of MoveOn's original ad text, it could be a copyright violation.

Either way, someone should have made it clear what the issue was and nobody did.

Regardless, Obenshain was TOTALLY off the mark in her conflation of trademark with libel laws.