Twin Cities, Divided Opinions

Yesterday we noted the decision by one Twin City TV station to refuse advertising from a group supporting the war in Iraq on the grounds that the ad contained inaccuracies – particularly in claiming the media "only reports the bad news" on the war. Today, Scott Johnson at Powerline demonstrates these ads have become quite the controversy in Minnesota.

Nick Coleman, a columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, was first out of the gate last week in criticizing the ads by focusing on the sponsor behind the ad:

News reports identified the sponsor as "the conservative Progress for America Voter Fund," but that barely scratches the surface. Progress for America is a campaign front for President Bush, meaning we have reached the point when the money men for a president who no longer faces election keep spending on spin to try to shore up support for a mistaken elective war.
For Coleman, the "Swift Boating of Iraq had begun":
Be warned: Despite the patriotic music, the flags and the burning Twin Towers, these ads aimed at Minnesota's heartstrings are not about supporting the troops. They are just a desperate attempt to salvage support for an unpopular president's reckless war.
Yesterday though, fellow Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten took a closer look at the individuals associated with the group and the ad:
The members of Minnesota Families United, a grass-roots group made up mostly of the relatives of soldiers who have died in Iraq or are serving there, welcome debate on the war. Marine Lt. Col. Bob Stephenson of Woodbury is the group's co-chairman. When he returned from Iraq in March 2005, he was shocked at what he viewed as inaccurate and overly negative media coverage of the war. But Stephenson took it in stride. He says he put his life on the line in Iraq precisely to protect freedom of speech.

So he is baffled by the reaction of the DFL Party and some in the media to a TV ad about the war in which he recently appeared. The DFL has branded the ad "un-American, untruthful and a lie." The DFL isn't bothering to present its version of the facts in an ad of its own. Instead, party chairman Brian Melendez launched a campaign to silence Stephenson and others who appeared in the ad. He demanded that the ad be pulled from the airwaves, so Minnesotans couldn't hear its message and make up their minds themselves.

And Kersten wonders:
Are Stephenson and Carlson un-American? I suggest that the DFL itself deserves that label, for attempting to silence the speech of fellow citizens with whom it disagrees. If Republicans employed the same tactic, the media would be howling. But the silence here has been deafening.

I guess free speech doesn't apply to un-American folks such as Bob Stephenson, and his supporters in Minnesota Families United.

So, what are we to think of these ads? Well, you can read both columns and watch the ads here. Then let us know – if you were a station manager, would you run these ads?