Republican: With AG Stein, the hypocrisy of the Democrats is on full display

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Attorney General Josh Stein meets with his top aides at the North Carolina Department of Justice in Stein’s office in Raleigh, North Carolina, Thursday, July 29, 2021.

ehyman@newsobserver.com

Attorney General of North Carolina Josh Stein went to federal court to overturn a state law that criminalizes political misinformation.

why? Prosecutors used the law to investigate Stein himself.

In some catastrophic left corners, such behavior can be called an attack on democracy. Rigid self-preservation seems a more apt description, but the discrepancy between Stein’s maneuver and Democratic rhetoric about disinformation is striking. And it reinforces a long-simmering suspicion that the ruling class dictates one set of standards and then changes them when they become inconvenient.

State law makes it an offense to publish a claim intended to influence the outcome of an election “provided that such report is false, or with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity.”

Given the rhetoric from left-wing groups and politicians — including Stein — about the dangers of political misinformation, you’d think North Carolina’s law would be cause for celebration.

After all, just last month, Democrats in Congress held a hearing called “The Growing Threat: How Misinformation Is Harming American Democracy.” Stein said after the 2020 election, “we all need to work to restore our democracy” due to “misinformation”. Democratic Party of NC said politicians who spread misinformation are “a threat to our country and democracy.”

But in 2020, Stein, a Democrat, ran an ad asserting his Republican opponent, Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill, “left 1,500 rape kits on the shelf.” Prosecutors don’t check rape kits, O’Neill argued in a complaint to the State Election Commission, so Stein’s allegation couldn’t be true.

When Stein was targeted by investigators this month over his political misinformation, he sought emergency action from a federal judge to declare North Carolina’s anti-disinformation law unconstitutional. The SBOE argued that Stein was “asking this court to declare an unabated First Amendment right for any person to lie about running for office.”

But the law “punish(es) basic protected political speech,” Stein argued, “in clear violation of the First Amendment.”

Minutes before prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles granted Stein’s wish, declaring the anti-disinformation law unconstitutional and dismissing the criminal case.

Either Stein believes that misinformation is a mortal threat to American democracy, or he doesn’t. What is this?

To the casual observer, this fact pattern only confirms a long-simmering undercurrent in American politics: the party in power disregarding longstanding standards the moment they become inconvenient.

Gathering in large groups during a pandemic is a danger to your neighbor — as long as you’re not protesting the police, then it’s a public health necessity.

Hunter Biden’s emails were “Russian disinformation” — until the 2020 election, now they’re “authenticated.”

Spreading lies to influence elections endangers our republic – until the NC Attorney General is under investigation, then it is protected by the First Amendment.

And on and on.

I’m reminded of a great series from last week’s New York Times Opinion section in which eight columnists analyzed their own misguided opinions. One of them, Brett Stevens, wrote that he was wrong in 2015, arguing, “If you still don’t think Donald Trump is horrible, then you are.”

In last week’s Mea Culpa, Stevens wrote“Trump’s supporters saw a candidate whose entire being was a proudly raised middle finger to the smug elites who created the failed status quo… In my condescension to his supporters, I also confirmed their suspicions about people like me. — people who spoke well about the virtues of empathy, but practice it only selectively.”

Hypocrisy eats away at trust. It slowly corrodes the institutional foundations until, eventually, they break. There may be short-term gains in doing so, but the long-term consequences are serious—and certain.

Columnist Pat Ryan is a former press secretary for GOP Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger.



Republican: With AG Stein, the hypocrisy of the Democrats is on full display

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