GOP ads erroneously tagged the Democratic candidate with the “defund police” label.

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“Trudy Busch Valentine supports her anti-cop agenda.”

— Voiceover by new attack gauge against Valentine, a Democrat, by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, GOP Senate nominee, released Oct. 25

Ever since many liberal activists adopted the slogan “defund the police” after the 2020 killing of George Floyd, Republicans have tried to tag Democrats with that phrase — even those who clearly say they don’t support it.

During the 2020 campaign, for example, President Biden firmly dismissed calls by left-wing activists to defund police and said he would double funding for a community policing program that would bring more officers to the streets. Despite this, the Trump campaign adamantly – and falsely – claimed that Biden was a supporter of the concept.

In the current election cycle, Republicans have embarked on a new path—blame by association. They have blasted Democrats who don’t support “defunding the police” with ads claiming they have supporters or funders who support the concept.

For example, the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is allied with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), attacked US House Democratic nominee Hillary Scholten of Michigan for collecting campaign contributions from groups — like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club – had once joined the movement. Similarly, Arizona gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake claimed her rival, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, was “backed by radical groups who want to defund our police force.” That was also a reference to Planned Parenthood.

Schmitts new ad takes a similar approach. It features images of four women – three of them black – supporting Democratic candidate Trudy Busch Valentine, a member of the wealthy Anheuser-Busch family. It suggests, with a misleading edit of a video clip, that Valentine supports her position on “defunding the police” — when she doesn’t.

Before we take a closer look at the ad, let’s clarify what it means to “disappoint the police.”

Only on rare occasions have Liberal advocates called for the complete abolition of police departments. Advocates broadly want to redirect some money now spent on police forces to items such as education, public health, housing and youth services. The idea is that low-income communities would become stronger — and in need of fewer police tactics — if fundamental issues were addressed.

Under this concept, some police officers would be replaced by trained social workers or specialized response teams, allowing police to focus on violent crime rather than drug overdoses or homelessness. The theory is that police would be better able to deal with rapes and murders if they didn’t have to deal with other social ills that sometimes lead to community confrontations with the police.

Of course, at The Fact Checker we do not take a position on this topic. But that’s a catchphrase that opened the floodgates to political attacks.

Schmitt’s ad begins with a picture of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura O. Jones, St. Louis Councilwoman Megan Green, U.S. Rep. Cori Bush (Mo.) and State Senator Karla May, all Democrats. “Tishaura Jones and her radical team want to disappoint our police force,” says the narrator.

Images and words bombard the viewer in rapid succession.

  • Bold text appears above the photograph of the four women. “Tishaura Jones, Defund Police Ally,” the text reads, citing a 2021 USA Today article.
  • Bush then appears in a video clip in front of the Capitol and declares “that police defunding must be done.”
  • Another photo shows Valentine flanked by Bush and Jones with a new headline: “Trudy Busch Valentine Supports Her Anti-Cop Agenda.” The quote is from the October 16 issue of the black weekly The St. Louis American.
  • A video clip then appears of Valentine telling a reporter, “I’d love to work with Mayor Jones on whatever things she wants to work on.”

Before we get to Valentine’s actual positions, let’s unpack how the viewer is misled.

The 2021 USA Today article, which had a caption calling Jones “defunding police ally,” was a nuanced look at how Jones is attempting to garner public support to raise some money that could be used for the Police intended to steer into community and social services programs — and she’s been found to disapprove of the “defund the police” label.

“I do not agree [defund the police] because I think it automatically gives people a negative connotation,” Jones told USA Today. “And it’s totally at odds with what we’re trying to do, which is to make people safer and to redesign our public safety systems to invest in things that make people safer.”

Jones issued an executive order shortly after taking office to divert $4 million from the police overtime budget to hire social workers within the police department. But then councilmen managed to add $5 million to the overtime budget with the help of federal Covid aid.

The Bush clip is from a 2021 interview with CBS in which she defended her use of private security after receiving death threats. The ad truncates what she believes the police funds should be used for and changes the context of her quote. Here’s the full citation, with the section in bold in the ad.

“So suck it up and The defunding of the police must happen, we have to disappoint the police and put that money into social safety nets because we’re trying to save lives,” Bush said. “What other profession can do work that is outside their scope? … As a nurse, I cannot also be the surgeon. You don’t want me to be your surgeon and I to be the nurse. When do we start paying police officers as social workers? No we have not.”

The most egregious mischaracterization concerns the interview with Valentine that appeared in the St. Louis American. The newspaper has never indicated that it supports an “anti-cop agenda.” Instead, in a one-minute interview at an educational event, Valentine told reporter Danielle Brown that she wanted to meet with Jones to find out her top three concerns for St. Louis. The ad truncates Valentin’s comment to again make a misleading impression. Here’s the full swap, with the section used in the ad in bold.

  • Brown: “I know you’re running for the Senate. So one of the main questions I wanted to ask you was, what is your biggest plan you are working on to improve the city of St. Louis?”
  • Valentine: “You know, I’d love to work with Mayor Jones on whatever things she wants to work on To improve St.Louis and really get an idea of ​​what her biggest concern is and the top 3 and we can work on that.

Separately, the article reported that Jones’ office said their top three priorities were making the city safer, improving the economy for “communities left behind,” and improving city services. Making the city safer included “investment in community violence intervention programs to relieve officers’ burden and help them focus on their primary job — preventing violent crime.”

Meanwhile, Valentine has rejected the “Defund Police” slogan instead of embracing it. When she entered the race, she was asked by the Missouri Independent to name a position that differed from her party.

“I think exonerating the police is completely wrong,” she replied, “because we need to fund the police with the money and training they need to keep us all safe.”

Her campaign website also states that she will “support robust funding for law enforcement and first responders to tackle violent crime, conduct long-term drug trafficking investigations and promote community-focused policing programs.”

in the a July interviewShe reiterated: “I am not in favor of disappointing the police. I think the police need more funding, better wages, a lot more education, a lot more understanding of what’s going on in their communities and need to help their communities. I am pro-police and law enforcement.”

Schmitt’s campaign defended the ad.

“There’s a reason law enforcement and the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police have backed Attorney General Eric Schmitt in this race — Trudy Busch Valentine will not put our police force ahead of their radical agenda,” spokesman Rich Chrismer said in a statement. “If heiress Trudy Busch Valentine really was against police defunding, she would stop soliciting support from radicals like Mayor Tishaura Jones and Rep. Cori Bush who want to continue defunding the police.”

Valentine has been consistent in her position — that she wants to increase police funding, not reduce it. This is not a radical agenda. Faced with this uncomfortable fact, the Schmitt campaign has chosen to falsely suggest that Senate hopefuls support the opinions of some of their supporters — who, in turn, are far more nuanced than this sledgehammer ad suggests.

Polls show Schmitt with a commanding lead in the running, making one wonder why his campaign has resorted to deceptive video editing and finger pointing in recent weeks to make a false claim. He earns four Pinocchios.

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