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Politicians Lie

Steve Nicoles' Interview of Nicholas Johnson

KCRG-TV9, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

March 10/11, 2005

Bruce Aune: Good evening, I'm Bruce Aune.

Iowa is taking steps to hold politicians to the truth.

But KCRG-TV Nine's Steve Nicoles reports it might not be enough.

He's in our newsroom with our top story. Steve.

Steve Nicoles: Bruce, it sounds great: fine politicians for lying during campaigns.

But the First Amendment could keep the State from forcing the truth.

Even on a cold, blustery March evening people in Cedar Rapids are grocery shopping -- and talking politics.

Voice: All politicians tell lies, too.

Steve Nicoles: A State House committee unanimously passed a bill to fine politicians two grand for lying about their opponent.

Steve David: Something oughta be done. They're trying to make big money on their job and they oughta be more honest about it.

Steve Nicoles: Politicians have a long standing record of bending the truth to get their message across.

Wendall Tarbar: Truth and politics shouldn't even go hand and hand.  I mean it's all about getting elected no matter the cost.

Steve Nicoles: If the bill becomes law Iowa would join 18 other states with similar laws. But the First Amendment, providing freedom of speech, has kept those states from enforcing it.

Nicholas Johnson: The Supreme Court would generally recognize political speech is at the core of what we want to protect.

Steve Nicholes: Nicholas Johnson says, instead of government keeping an eye on politicians the media should act more like a watchdog.

Nicholas Johnson: That's a better way to challenge the falsity that's out there.

Steve Nicholes: All of this likely means the doors could close on this Bill before it ever gets to a vote.

In 1964 the Supreme Court ruled a state cannot award damages for defamatory remarks unless the plaintiff can prove actual malice. That means the person who made the statement either knew it wasn't true or had reckless disregard of whether or not it was true.