Bloomberg News is reporting that a Republican National Committee Web ad uses “altered audio from U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments to attack President Barack Obama's health-care law.” The Bloomberg article details the problems with the ad:
In a spot circulated yesterday [March 28], the Republican National Committee excerpts the opening seconds of the March 27 presentation of Obama's top Supreme Court lawyer, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, in which he is heard struggling for words and twice stopping to drink water.
“Obamacare,” the ad concludes, in words shown against a photograph of the high court. “It's a tough sell.”
A review of a transcript and recordings of those moments shows that Verrilli took a sip of water just once, paused for a much briefer period, and completed his thought, rather than stuttering and trailing off as heard in the doctored version.
On his March 28 Fox News show, Sean Hannity aired an audio clip of Justice Antonin Scalia speaking during the arguments, and another of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Hannity then aired the RNC ad:
This left the impression that the RNC ad simply uses a clip of Verrilli to show that he had fared poorly during the arguments. In reality, as Bloomberg noted, Verrilli's speech was doctored to exaggerate the effect.
The time of publication on Bloomberg's article is 5:05 p.m. Eastern on March 29.
Hannity's show airs at 9 p.m. Eastern, and graphics throughout his March 29 show indicated it was airing live. But Hannity didn't apologize for airing the misleading ad. He didn't even mention it.
Even worse, during the show that follows Hannity, On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren aired the RNC ad and discussed it with The Washington Examiner's Byron York -- without ever mentioning that it was doctored.
As Supreme Court expert Tom Goldstein noted on SCOTUSblog, distortions such as these likely hurt efforts to make the court more transparent:
[T]he Justices now have before them a perfect illustration of the gross distortion that can instantly be made of recordings of their proceedings. What is to stop the same misleading stunt being pulled with the Justices' own oral argument questions and comments? Nothing at all. The Court made a special exception in releasing the oral argument tape for the health care arguments so promptly, and it probably will hesitate before doing so again. If there were any chance that the Justices would permit cameras in the Court, I do not see happening now.