Wouldn't it be great if political candidates could actually be held liable in court if they lie during an election? Of course, elections would grind to a halt, and our political system as we know it would crumble, and we'd revert to cave-people fighting over scraps of armadillo roadkill after all the supermarkets had been looted.
But that's not stopping anti-HERO Houston mayoral candidate Ben "Bathroom Ordinance" Hall, who is suing his former campaign adviser over a radio ad that he says stepped over the line of political discourse and straight into slander — the ad accuses him of not actually owning famed radio station KCOH, and of accepting a contribution from anti-gay activist Steve Hotze, who for some reason is described as a "confederate sympathizer." (Hall has accepted at least $5,000 from Hotze, according to campaign finance reports.)
The ad also claims that Hall's press-release-scribe, former investigative journalist Wayne Dolcefino, has a history of "attacking our black leaders."
According to the suit, Justin Jordan used the alias "Anthony Sparks" or "Anthony Starks" (the suit has it both ways) to buy ad time on 102.1 for a message sponsored by alleged shell companies called Houstonians for Truth and Historians for Truth.
Hall is seeking $20,000 in damages per count from multiple defendants (including the shell companies), and claims that Jordan is personally liable for at least $500,000.
Jordan's attorney, Oliver Brown, denied the allegations, saying the ad was part of routine political discourse and protected by the First Amendment.
The Houston Press listened to the ad, and the only remarkable thing about it is that's utterly unremarkable: It opens with the Dragnet theme, followed by a low-voiced narrator saying, "Ben Hall, this message is for you: You can no longer lie to the voters of Houston. You can no longer make up stories about owning a radio station that just aren't true. We will not allow you to use Wayne Dolcefino to do your dirty work...."
It's as dumb, hyperbolic and nasty as any other campaign spot. The only thing we'd take issue with is describing Steve "Bioidentical Hormones are a Real Thing" Hotze as a "Confederate sympathizer." A homophobic member of a medical (and we use that term loosely) association that believes HIV doesn't cause AIDS? Sure. But maybe "Confederate sympathizer" sounded better to whoever wrote the script.
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It's as cheesy, over-the-top and utterly ridiculous as Ben Hall's anti-HERO radio spots, which describe the non-discrimination measure as a free pass for child molesters. And it's as offensive as Dolcefino's recent press releases for Hall, dredging up a 1991 affidavit that smears Hall's opponent, Sylvester Turner. In the affidavit, Turner's wife, Cheryl, accuses him of having multiple affairs with men, among other things. She later recanted.
Hall's lawsuit also manages to attack Turner, citing the affidavit and stating that "there is evidence that one of the mayoral candidate's former swore to that candidate of having sex with men...."
As Brown told the Press, "In the actual lawsuit, all they're trying to do is attack Sylvester Turner...Which I think is deplorable, that you're trying to dirty up another candidate, who has nothing to do with this actual lawsuit, from what I can tell."
It will be interesting to see where this lawsuit goes. We're guessing nowhere.