Mitchum sues Capps over TV ad
February 18, 2015
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
The recent Republican challenger to Central Coast Congresswoman Lois Capps has filed suit against her, alleging that the Democratic Rep. defamed him in a television ad that altered the outcome of last year’s election.
Capps defeated Chris Mitchum in the November election by fewer than 8,000 votes and by a margin of less than 2 percent. Late in the campaign, Capps released an ad showing a video clip of Mitchum that was spun out of context to falsify what he was saying, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Santa Barbara Superior Court.
“I do not intend to go to Washington to represent the 24th District,” Mitchum said in the commercial aired by Capps.
“I do not intend to go to Washington to represent the 24th District, to bring back baseball fields. That’s not why I’m going. I’m going to fight for my country, and I happen to come from the 24th District. ” Mitchum said in a longer version of the video clip.
Mitchum said in an email statement to CalCoastNews Wednesday that he is seeking a landmark ruling that will stop individuals and organizations from attempts to manipulate the public with untrue claims.
“It changes the balance (outcome) of elections and deceives voters into voting on information based on malicious lies,” Mitchum stated. “That is not the America in which I grew up and it must be stopped.”
Capps Campaign Consultant Bill Carrick called the complaint a “frivolous lawsuit.”
“The congresswoman has not been served with the claim and therefore has not had the chance to read it, but she is proud of the campaign she ran and is confident there is no validity to this frivolous lawsuit,” Carrick said.
Mitchum’s suit alleges that the ad falsely portrayed him as someone who planned to represent the Tea Party, not his constituents. The lawsuit states that Capps’s add completely altered the meaning of Mitchum’s statements and portrayed him as a hypocrite and narrow-minded Tea Party advocate.
The shortened audio clip of Mitchum aired on television, as well as radio stations in the district. It came amid a late advertising push by the Capps campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Both Capp’s congressional campaign and the DCCC are named as defendants in the lawsuit. The DCCC spent $99,000 on radio ads in the final weekend of the campaign alone, the suit alleges.
After the ad aired, California Republicans sent a letter to Capps demanding that she cease and desist running the commercial. A Capps spokesman told KEYT that he did not see anything wrong with the ad because Mitchum planned to represent a narrow agenda.
To prove defamation, Mitchum’s attorney, Joshua Lynn, must show proof that Capps not only made a false statement, but did so with malice. Proof of malice is required because Mitchum is a public figure.
Lynn stated in a press release that a lawsuit against ABC and its former reporter John Stossel serves as precedent for Mitchum’s case. In the ABC case, Stossel quoted a minister who said in a sermon that he used donations to buy luxury items.
But, the minister was not referring to himself in the context of the sermon. ABC settled the suit out of court and issued an apology.
Mitchum’s suit also alleges that Capps, her campaign and the DCCC committed a second tort: intentional infliction of emotional stress. The lawsuit states that the false ad caused Mitchum to suffer severe emotional shock and distress.
Mitchum is requesting reimbursement of his legal costs. He is also seeking compensatory, general, special, punitive and exemplary damages.
Capps recently faced a lawsuit that ended with the federal government issuing a $2.5 million settlement. After a former legislative aide for Capps struck and killed a Santa Barbara woman while driving drunk, the victim’s parents sued the driver, Capps and the federal government.
The suit alleged that the driver was on the job for Capps at the time and that congressional staffers attempted to cover-up knowledge of the man’s past DUIs. The federal government assumed liability for Capps and agreed to pay $2.5 million to the victim’s family.
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