Shaun Boyd: “I’ve fact checked hundreds of ads over the last 14 years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one as botched as this…”
In case you missed it, not one, not two, but three different fact checkers called out a new ad from a super PAC, which is largely funded by local developers and Republicans like Pete Coors, supporting Kelly Brough for misleading voters and including inaccurate information about Mike Johnston.
Denverite’s Ben Markus, 9News’ Marshall Zelinger, and CBS Colorado’s Shaun Boyd all detailed the misleading claims of A Better Denver’s new ad, which inaccurately accuses Mike of being a “liar” about his accomplishments on COVIDCheck and gun safety legislation.
These fact checks come on the heels of former Denver Mayor Federico Peña calling on Kelly Brough to publicly denounce the ad and Mike Johnston for Mayor taking legal action to take down the ad for misleading voters.
“It is undeniable that the new ad put out by Kelly Brough’s super PAC is factually inaccurate, intentionally misleads voters, and uses dirty tricks in an effort to bolster Kelly’s campaign,” said Mike Johnston for Mayor spokesperson Jordan Fuja. “As both candidates make their final case to lead the City of Denver, Kelly Brough is facing a true test of that leadership. Now that the ad has been thoroughly debunked by fact checkers, will she use her platform to stand up for her values of running a clean, truthful campaign and demand her supporters take it down?”
Here are some highlights:
Denverite: “The ad, as it first ran, said: ‘Johnston says he built COVIDCheck …’ before cutting to a former Polis administration official in a 9News report saying Johnston was taking credit for something her team did. The problem with the original claim in the ad is that Johnston actually did start COVIDCheck when he ran the non-profit Gary Community Ventures…”
CBS Colorado: “I’ve fact checked hundreds of ads over the last 14 years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one as botched as this, which is astounding given the seriousness of the claims… That’s completely misleading. Johnston never said he built the state’s testing program.”
9News: “This political ad, paid for by supporters of Kelly Brough, makes this inaccurate statement, and then tries to use my reporting to back it up… I reported on Mike Johnston’s resume… I never said he lied.”
Read more about the ad’s inaccuracies in Denverite:
- It revolves around an ad from a super PAC supporting Kelly Brough for mayor, claiming that “Mike Johnston is lying about his leadership,” when it comes to the COVID testing program COVIDCheck that he started, and his involvement in a pair of 2013 gun bills when he was a state senator.
- Johnston’s campaign said the ad is false, and should be removed, even going as far as sending cease and desist letters to the major TV stations.
- “You can call someone all kinds of things, but to call someone a liar, when you know that in fact your ad is incorrect, is outrageous,” said former mayor Federico Peña, who has endorsed Johnston, and has called for Brough to denounce the ad.
- Senate leaders involved in the 2013 gun bills, including former Senate President John Morse and former Senate Majority Leader Morgan Carroll have said Johnston was closely involved in the legislation, which expanded background checks and banned high capacity ammunition magazines.
- “After my son Alex was murdered in the Aurora Movie Theater, Coloradans stood together to pass the most significant gun safety legislation in decades. Helping to lead that charge was Mike Johnston,” said State Sen. Tom Sullivan in a statement. “It’s shameful his opponent would try to downplay his role in that victory against the gun lobby.”
- Over the weekend, State Sen. Rhonda Fields, a sponsor on the 2013 gun bills when she was in the State House, tweeted: “Truth: In 2013, Mike Johnston was serving in the Senate, me in the House. He was directly engaged with Senate members on Gun bills. He voted ‘Yes’ for a safer Colorado!
- “Ending gun violence is too serious to become a political football in Denver’s 2023 Mayoral race,” the tweet read.
- Johnston’s campaign filed a cease and desist letter on May 19 with the TV stations demanding the removal of the ad by the super PAC. “The ad makes several false claims about Mike that are clearly and objectively disprovable,” reads the letter.
- The ad, as it first ran, said: “Johnston says he built COVIDCheck …” before cutting to a former Polis administration official in a 9News report saying Johnston was taking credit for something her team did.
- The problem with the original claim in the ad is that Johnston actually did start COVIDCheck when he ran the non-profit Gary Community Ventures…
- Gov. Jared Polis, at the time, praised Johnston and COVIDCheck. On Nov. 13, 2020, months after COVIDCheck had started supplying tests to a number of school districts around the metro area, Polis announced that the state had contracted with COVIDCheck to expand testing.
- “And I want to thank Mike Johnston and Gary Community Foundation for their leadership on this initiative and making it a reality,” said Polis. “Really taking that vision and making it happen on the ground to augment and supplement all the testing sites that county health authorities in the state are also running.”
- “I actually haven’t even seen the ad, it was produced by an independent group, and by law you have no association with it,” said Brough. “I do think my understanding in that ad are things I’ve seen on TV too, where people are raising questions about if he’s taken credit for work they did. And that seems like a legitimate thing to answer to.”
- Johnston’s supporters, though, didn’t buy that she hadn’t seen the ad.
- “Everybody else has seen it, and it would be negligence on her part if she hasn’t seen an ad on her behalf,” said Peña. “There’s nothing wrong with her making a public statement denouncing the ad. She can do that and she hasn’t done that.”
And from CBS Colorado:
- I’ve fact checked hundreds of ads over the last 14 years, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one as botched as this, which is astounding given the seriousness of the claims.
- Specifically, that Denver Mayoral candidate Mike Johnston is lying – lying. You would think if you’re going to use a word like that, you would get it right the first time.
- But the ad, by a super PAC supporting Johnston’s opponent Kelly Brough, has had more than one iteration. And it’s still flawed.
- “Johnston said he built Colorado’s COVID testing program. The truth? Mike Johnston is taking credit for a thing that my team should be taking credit for.”
- That’s completely misleading. Johnston never said he built the state’s COVID testing program. He said he built COVIDCheck, a non-profit that provided COVID-19 tests between 2020 and 2022.
- And the truth is Johnston did build COVIDCheck.
- As CEO of Gary Community Ventures, he provided the start-up funding, and he says directly oversaw day-to-day operations for the first six months. Securing tests, contracting with schools and labs, and setting up a system with privacy protections and 24-48 hour turnaround.
- Initially, COVIDCheck only did testing in schools. In November 2020, it contracted with the state.
- That’s where Sarah Tuneberg comes in. She led the state’s COVID-19 testing program. A program she thinks Johnston is taking credit for, which is her opinion.
- Bottom line, it’s one thing to say Mike Johnston exaggerated his role in COVID testing and gun control, it’s quite another to say he lied about it.
- If you’re going to call someone a liar, you better have strong evidence to back it up. Evidence the group behind this ad has failed to provide.
And from 9News:
- It’s a conversation it seems like we have before every election. Why is it that political ads are allowed to be misleading?
- Like the ad supporting Denver Mayoral candidate Kelly Brough. The ad that claims that Mike Johnston lied about his leadership.
- “Mike Johnston is lying about his leadership.” No.
- This political ad paid for by supporters of Kelly Brough makes this inaccurate statement, and then tries to use my reporting to back it up.
- I reported on Denver Mayoral candidate Mike Johnston’s resume. I never said he lied.
- “Johnston says he built Colorado’s COVID testing program.” No. He never said that. And our story never claimed that.
- His resume includes starting COVIDCheck Colorado, which was its own testing program and one of the groups that contracted with the state to run COVID testing sites free to the public.
- This one is misleading.