It is called prior restraint.
But that doesn’t seem to stop Nevada judges from doing it, as I’ve noted before.
On Friday a Reno judge ordered state Senate candidate Gary Schmidt to stop running a television ad that accused his Republican primary opponent, incumbent Ben Kieckhefer, of being a supporter of Harry Reid in the 2010 election, according to a Reno newspaper account.
Now, that is probably libel per se, if anyone could “prove” it is not true. Kieckhefer does have close ties to a number of those infamous Republicans for Reid. Early voting ended Friday and the primary is Tuesday.
In granting Kieckhefer a preliminary injunction, Judge Patrick Flanagan, wrote, “Ben Kieckhefer is likely to suffer irreparable injury to his career and reputation from defendant’s television advertisements.”
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the political kitchen.
“It is important that at some point, when something is blatantly false, that it should not be tolerated,” the newspaper quoted Kieckhefer, a former Reno Gazette-Journal reporter, as saying. “I am a staunch defender of the first amendment (Yes, the paper ran it lower case). I am a former journalist and I believe in it. But it is not universal and it should not protect people’s ability to just make something up.”
Kieckhefer and the judge are both wrong. Prior restraint is the essence of censorship, which is anathema to the First Amendment right to free speech and press. Yes, even if it is later proven to be false.
Kieckhefer is free to stand up in public and call Schmidt a liar. He can also sue Schmidt for libel. But stopping him from saying whatever he wishes in the middle of campaign is unjustifiable. Politicians should be free to lie about their opponents and get caught lying.
Of course, in this case, it will be interesting to hear the proof of the lie.
This is how the Reno newspaper account concludes:
“Before the ad was broadcast for the first time Wednesday, Schmidt said part of his proof of Kieckhefer’s support for Reid was an article from the Las Vegas Sun.
“‘What I have is an article and other testimony and then guilt by association,’ Schmidt said then, noting Kieckhefer’s Republican friends include former state Sen. Bill Raggio and Reno Mayor Bob Cashell, who both supported Reid against Angle.
“‘And the biggest secondary evidence I have — because we re-researched this again — is this: There is nothing on the record anywhere where he (Kieckhefer) gave any ounce of support or endorsement to Sharron Angle. So what did he do, vote for the Green Party candidate?’ Schmidt said.”
That is why there is a First Amendment — to let the truth arise from the exchange of allegations and not have some judge weigh in and deny the voters to right to hear what the candidates have to say, showing their character and probity.
The judge is stealing information from the voters and usurping their right to determine the outcome of the election.
What one candidate says about another says more about that person than it says about his opponent. If we assume voters are too stupid to figure it out, eventually, democracy is a failed experiment.