In one of the weirdest moments during a political season that seems to be getting crazier with each passing day, CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd had to review a campaign commercial in which she appears.
And she deemed it misleading.
Boyd is at the center of a commercial created for Protect Colorado, a group representing energy-industry interests, in opposition to Initiative 97, also known as Proposition 112, whose proponents, organized as Colorado Rising, describe the measure like so:
We are working to pass a statewide statutory ballot initiative to establish common sense buffer zones between fracking and occupied buildings — like homes and schools — and areas of special concern – like playgrounds and drinking water sources.
Since health studies show harmful effects to people within a half-mile of fracking operations, the ballot initiative will establish a buffer zone of 2,500 feet (almost a half-mile) from these operations and occupied buildings or areas of special concern.
The spot uses portions of a Boyd "reality check" segment about an earlier Colorado Rising clip, editing her comments in such a way that she seems to be attacking the proposal itself.
Here's the Protect Colorado item:
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After the Protect Colorado commercial began airing on local outlets, CBS4 started getting messages like this one, shared on Twitter by news director Tim Wieland: "I'm extremely disappointed that you are repeatedly airing an anti-setback ad featuring one of your reporters. This casts serious doubt on the station's objectivity and integrity."
When we reached out to Wieland about such reactions, he shared with us the response he's been sending to critics. It begins: "Thanks for writing, and giving me the opportunity to respond to your concern. First, I want to be clear that neither CBS4 nor reporter Shaun Boyd take a position on this ballot issue — or any other campaign issue. It’s also important for you to know that we cannot prevent a political campaign from using news footage inside its advertising."
He explains: "Campaigns are able to use footage from our newscasts for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court has determined that political advertising is considered to be constitutionally protected free speech. Second, courts have ruled that using our news content in political advertising is allowed under 'fair use.' My concern, as evidenced by your comment, is that viewers will see our content presented in a commercial context — and we may be misrepresented as supporting or opposing a particular issue or candidate. In this particular case, the commercial includes clips from one of our Reality Check segments. The full segment takes issue with some statements in the ad that are opinion as well as unsupported claims about the economic impact. The segments used in the commercial are factual, but only represent their position on the issue."
Meanwhile, Boyd performed a reality check on the Protect Colorado ad using her video — and she found it wanting, as you can see here:
"Let me be clear," Boyd says at the outset. "I have not and would not take a position on this or any other ballot issue in my role as a reporter."
Then, after broadcasting snippets of the commercial, Boyd announces that the text "isn't inaccurate, but it is misleading. It leaves the impression that I believe Initiative 97 would hurt more than help. That is not what my analysis found."
She points out that the Protect Colorado offering "only made claims about the possible economic impact of the ballot measure.... It left out any mention of a health and safety impact, and after the deadly accident in Firestone, that will, without question, factor into the vote as much as the economic impact, if not more."
The bottom line for Boyd: "This latest ad wants you to believe I'm on the side of oil and gas. I'm not on any side, as I hope the entirety of my fact check makes clear."
This repudiation hasn't actually caused other campaigns to steer clear of Boyd. Indeed, she's also front-and-center in an attack ad aimed at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis funded by the Republican Governors Association.
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This time around, the Boyd footage is culled from a May debate that aired on Colorado Public Television. She can be seen asking Polis about paying no federal income tax for a five-year period — a fact the RGA uses in gotcha fashion.
Whether this qualifies as a revelation is dubious. As a recent Denver Post piece notes, the paper had "previously reported that Polis owed no income taxes for five years in the early 2000s, before his election to Congress, while he was shouldering large losses as a tech startup entrepreneur. That means he had no tax bill due."
Was Boyd surprised by this usage? Hardly. She actually predicted it would happen in her Protect Colorado reality check.
"This isn't the first time my work has been used in an ad, and unfortunately, it won't be the last," she stated. "I wish I had control over that. I don't."