frank schmuck

frank schmuck, state senate candidate for legislative district 18(p o: frank schmuck/special for the republic)

the media: digital billboard.

who said it: team schmuck, frank schmuck’s paign.

party: republican.

the race: state senate, legislative district 18.

the comment: “firefighters vote schmuck for arizona senate”.

the forum: paign advertisement.

what we're looking at: whether state senate candidate frank schmuck has been endorsed by arizona firefighters.

analysis: candidates frequently promote their endorsements in paign advertisements. and the endorsement of firefighters, because of their largely positive public image, are often sought after.

the ad at issue appeared on a digital billboard in tempe, near the intersection of interstate 10 and u.s. 60. it stated “firefighters vote schmuck for arizona senate” and displayed a p o of schmuck alongside two firefighters.

soon after schmuck’s ad began appearing on the billboard last week, the professional fire fighters of arizona, the state’s largest firefighters organization, criticized it as false.

the group said in a news release that team schmuck’s p o of the candidate with firefighters implied that he had received firefighters’ endorsement. the group had instead endorsed schmuck’s opponent in the district 18 race, state sen. jeff dial.

“our choice to endorse sen. dial is reaffirmed by your decision to falsely use a picture of our firefighter members posed in front a city of glendale fire engine, thus implying that they’re supportive of your paign,” the group's president, bryan jeffries, said in the news release.

schmuck told az fact check the ad was not intended to imply an endorsement but rather as a call to action for firefighters to vote for him. he said he had the ad pulled from the billboard on aug.19, minutes after reading the pffa's news release, which was sent out aug.18

schmuck penned a response to the firefighters group, saying: “the image you have called into question was not intended to, nor does it, in our estimation and that of many others in media who reviewed it, imply that your local union endorses me for arizona senate. nowhere does it use your symbol or mention your ociation. it simply encourages firefighters to vote on or before august 30, and i would be honored to have their vote, like many have already.”

when asked if his team considered using punctuation after the word “firefighters” to clarify it was a call to action, schmuck said  “you don’t get a lot of space” with a billboard.

dr. kim fridkin, a political science professor at asu whose research includes elections and negative paigning, said candidates' ads often feature pictures of them in settings that imply an affiliation with a certain issue, cause or group — in a cl room with children, for example. she said the stated and implied message in schmuck’s ad was more “extreme.”

“i think this really implies that firefighters are endorsing him or supporting him,” fridkin said. “i haven’t seen something like that.”

she said that because groups such as firefighters often have official organizations that endorse candidates, the schmuck ad was more misleading than one that would have said, for example, “millennials vote schmuck.”

fridkin said misleading advertisements are more common at the local and state levels because they receive less scrutiny than national paigns. but national paigns also publish misleading ads, especially where targeted online advertising displays the ad for those who will likely support the candidate publishing the ad, she said.

bottom line: schmuck is correct that the ad did not mention the firefighters ociation or display their "symbol." but a p ing motorist could not have discerned that level of detail. schmuck was not endorsed by the professional fire fighters of arizona even though the public would be led to believe that based on the ad’s wording and accompanying p o of the candidate with firefighters in front of a fire truck.

the finding: no stars: misleading.

sources: professional fire fighters of arizona statement from aug. 19; letter from frank schmuck to the professional fire fighters of arizona sent aug. 19; interviews with dr. kim fridkin, a political science professor at asu, and frank schmuck.

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