Fox affiliate bans ad attacking Murphy

A Connecticut television station has pulled an independent group’s commercial attacking U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, D-5th District, over health-care reform, saying it makes unsubstantiated claims.

WTIC-TV, the Fox affiliate in Hartford, has stopping airing one of two commercials that the American Action Network has been running against Murphy, a two-term congressman in a close race with Republican Sam Caligiuri.

In a statement released by FoxCT, the station says that after reviewing documentation provided by American Action Network it “believes the commercial’s claims are unsubstantiated and has removed it from the air.”

Among the false claims in the commercial: it would provide free health care for illegal immigrants and would impose jail time for persons who failed to buy health insurance.

A second commercial that has been airing for a week, which also has inaccuracies, remains on the air. Among its claims: Murphy voted to provide Viagra for sex offenders.

James Landry, a spokesman for American Action, did not immediately return a call for comment. The group has spent nearly $900,000 in the past two weeks to air the two commercials.

“This ad destroys any credibility this shadowy group may have had,” Murphy said.

Television stations have little discretion over running candidate ads, but they are not required to accept the ads of independent groups.

Michael C. Harrington, a lawyer for Murphy’s campaign, told FoxCT four days ago that it had a duty to protect the public from misleading ads – and no duty to air commercials it deems suspect.

“Unlike federal candidates, independent political organizations do not have a ‘right to command the use of broadcast facilities.’ Because you need not air this advertisement, your station bears responsibility for its content when you do grant access,” Harrington said.