There are lines that we can't cross. I can make a product. If I tell you this product is safe and wonderful and it's going to cure you of something and you buy it and it doesn't meet the claim or it harms you, I can be punished. I can't defraud you. In the media, there is a limit. You can't slander people, if you lie, do damage and injure people on purpose, that's not freedom of speech, that's a form of aggression against someone. If it's complex, I always say you err on the side of leaving people alone.
Let the market work it out. People printing obnoxious, outrageous things, most of the time they won't make as much money and the market will just exclude them. But the media doesn't have license to say or do anything they want. The media can't injure, there are laws against harming individuals. It's the same way with property rights. I want people to have private property and the government shouldn't be able to tell you what to do with it, but if you do something on your property that hurts your neighbor's property, you've gone too far. You're not allowed to pollute your neighbor's property by exercising your own property rights. And I think the same rules apply to things people manufacture and make and what the media produces: information.
DN: do you think the media's coverage of you and your campaign impacted your message?
RP: I think the media had a lot to do with who heard my message and what they thought. But there's almost nothing you can do about it because almost every politician can complain about unfair treatment at one time or another. Exclusion was a big thing I faced, that and mocking and ridiculing what I was doing and saying. Four years ago they just wouldn't allow me in the debates. That's not breaking any law but the media had a lot of influence on voters and how my message was perceived.
I didn't file a lawsuit; I just tried to overcome the obstacles. It's very imperfect, and if they're not committing liable, I just ignore the whole thing. And if someone is being is ugly and mean and nasty, which I run into not too infrequently on TV, I don't need to do their show again. If they want me on their program, they can't treat me that way. So I have a reaction to it. Most of that can be ironed out, just so there aren't too many laws trying to sort out the whole thing.
DN: Being ignored by your own party and the media won you some powerful advocates, like Comedian Central's Jon Stewart.
RP: Jon Stewart came to my defense beautifully because they (the mainstream media) were ignoring me! He sort of evened things out for me. And that's a good example of letting the free market work things out. There's no law excluded him from his kind of political commentary and there was no crime committed against me by the mainstream media – they were just bad, biased, slanted reporters. You can't put them in jail for that. But if you have a free enough market, someone like Jon Stewart can come in and rectify some of these problems.
Kathryn Wallace is a freelance journalist based in Washington D.C.
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