Former congressman and Democratic candidate for Washington State governor Jay Inslee may have put himself at odds with a prominent Seattle liberal politics blog for his campaign’s out of context use of a Publicola headline in two negative web ads in less than a month.
The Inslee campaign’s second use of the misleading headline from Publicola’s March 5 story “‘Education Candidate’ McKenna Praises GOP Budget Despite Lack of Ed Funding” occurred this week, several weeks after Publicola writer Josh Feit had already taken issue with Inslee’s first misuse of the story title in mid-March.
The phrase “lack of ed funding” easily leads readers to two rather absurd conclusions: 1) the state budget proposed by Republicans in mid-March had taken away all funds from our public education system and 2) McKenna was leaping with glee at the opportunity to begin bulldozing schools across the state.
Perhaps recognizing the opportunities the headline allows for gross misrepresentation, on March 16, one day after the Inslee camp recreated the headline in a March 15 video attacking Republican frontrunner Rob McKenna, Feit did what any responsible journalist should do by publicly clarifying what he meant.
In a lengthy clarification—posted under the title “Inslee Video Prompts Clarification” —Feit explained that his headline did not properly represents the facts presented in his news story: [Ed. Emphasis added]
It was a sexy headline, though it should have said “Budget Deal” to be more accurate. In the accompanying article, I did lay out the cuts to education that were a central part of the budget deal. (The competing senate budget proposal, which McKenna subsequently said shouldn’t be part of the talks, left less of an ending fund balance, but fully funded education.) …
In the same March 16 post, Feit also took direct issue with the Inslee campaign’s use of the headline:
McKenna’s gubernatorial rivals at the Jay Inslee campaign are now using my headline in their latest YouTube video to bash McKenna for making “empty promises” about education funding. While my shorthand headline came with an article that gave readers the full context, Inslee’s video, obviously, does not.
My headline was fair game for the Inslee camp. That’s the way politics work. I do wish I’d been clearer in the headline, though. McKenna’s spokesman was obviously praising the politics—getting the deal done—not the substance.
Though the Inslee campaign appeared to have gotten the first message from Feit—the March 15 video has been recut to replace the phrase “Lack of Ed Funding” in the headline clearer text—the newer video launched April 2 once again features the entire inaccurate and misleading headline.
Washington State Republican Party communications director Josh Amato noticed the repeat infraction and quickly tossed the yellow flag on Twitter:
The Inslee campaign use of Publicola’s inaccurate headline is at least a lesson for every blogger to use caution when writing headlines. Accuracy and sexiness are not mutually exclusive qualities.
Can smoke and mirrors tactics work for Inslee’s campaign as they attempt to narrow the credibility gap? Only the final vote tallies will offer a clear answer, but though confusion politics continues to be de rigueur among progressive campaign strategists, intellectual honesty tends to be a perennial favorite among voters whose discriminating nose for identifying bovine excrement is routinely underestimated by Election Night losers.
[Ed. Note: NW Daily Marker reached out to the Inslee campaign by email for comment, but did not receive a response before time of publication.]