Submitted by Greenwich Voices for Democracy
The League of Women Voters, for whom Voices For Democracy (VFD) has great respect, has issued a Statement (LWV: Use of debate videotape may not be used without the League’s express written approval. Oct 9, 2020) which, unfortunately, could create the erroneous impression—which the Republican Town Committee has now fostered – that VFD has violated an agreement by republishing the words of the Republican candidates at a recent debate. That is simply not so.
The League’s Statement clearly states that it has an agreement with “both political parties” [presumably the Republican and Democratic parties] to not use any portion of the debate without the League’s approval. That agreement, as the League recognizes, does not and cannot apply to non-parties. Moreover, it certainly does not override the First Amendment rights of others.
Since VFD has properly rebroadcast portions of that debate, it is important that we make certain the facts are known.
First, VFD is not a political party and it does not coordinate with any political party.
Second, as the League and both political parties know, VFD is not and never has been a party to any such agreement.
Third, our use of a candidate’s own words cannot possibly be a disparagement of the candidate who uttered them.
Simply repeating what a candidate said (which is what was done) does not disparage, it informs. In this case, it informed voters on where the candidates stand with respect to a critical issue – the right of a woman to control her own body. Without twisting their words or in any way characterizing the candidates stated positions, VFD simply repeated their statements. The ability to do so and the importance of disseminating this kind of information to voters is the essence of democracy and is at the
heart of the First Amendment.
Nothing VFD did would jeopardize in any way the League’s legal status or diminish the important role the League plays in educating voters as to the positions of the candidates. To the contrary, this furthers that effort. While obviously the Republican Town Committee and its Chairman are upset and perhaps one or more of the candidates has also complained, the truth
is that the problem lies not in the repetition of their positions but in the positions themselves.
That however is something the candidates and the party have to live with.
Voters—whether they were able to listen to the debate or not—are entitled to hear what the candidates said on a critical issue such as a woman’s right to control her own body.
It is unfortunate that the Republicans want to prevent voters from having that information. But, fortunately in our democracy, at least as of now, they cannot suppress facts by stifling speech – even when it is their own speech — simply because they don’t like it or because it embarrasses them.
VFD will continue to exercise its right to honestly and faithfully report what the candidates say so that voters can assess the candidates with complete and accurate information.
Greenwich Voices for Democracy
Sandy Litvack, Chair