Take a minute to [un]wind with our Sunday morning newsletter. Grab a cup of coffee and catch up on what you may have missed from [un]Divided this week.
Smiley saga gets stranger
On Friday’s podcast, we discussed three cease and desist letters sent to the Tiffany Smiley for Senate camp over its use of corporate logos in her campaign ads.
Starbucks sent Smiley's campaign a letter on September 23, asking her to remove or alter a recent ad that shows her standing in front of a Starbucks in Seattle that closed due to concerns over crime. The company took issue with a barely visible (and backward) sign of theirs on the building, as well as the word “Starbucks” in a newspaper headline that flashed on screen.
Starbucks has every right to enforce its trademark, although I do find it a little petty in this instance. Besides, Starbucks should celebrate the fact that someone wants to actually pay attention to the crime crisis that has forced it to close several locations across the country.
The Seattle Seahawks sent Smiley’s campaign a letter on September 6, asking her to remove or alter an ad that depicts her family watching a football game at home. For two seconds of the ad, her husband Scotty can be seen on the couch wearing a Seahawks jersey. In its letter, the Seahawks organization said it was opposed to its trademarks being used by her campaign "in any manner that may suggest that it is in any way endorsed by, or otherwise affiliated" with the team.
The jersey in question was given to Mr. Smiley by the Seattle Seahawks when he raised the 12th man flag in honor of his service as the nation's first blind active-duty military officer.
In an effort to appease the Seahawks, Smiley's campaign altered the ad to make the jersey more generic.
As I stated on the show on Friday, I have no issue with the Seahawks protecting their brand as long as it's done so evenly. Which brings me to the latest development.
On Friday, Washington State Rep. Tarra Simmons (D) posted what appeared to be an endorsement from the Seahawks on her campaign page.
Certainly, there could be explanations as to why Simmons' post is fine, but Smiley's commercial is not. For example, have the Seahawks endorsed Simmons and therefore are fine with the usage of their trademark for a campaign post? Did she ask permission before posting? Are commercials treated differently than social media?
I'm open to a reasonable explanation, but the Seahawks have not responded to my inquiries thus far.
Overall, I don't think it's a good look for the Seahawks and could serve to alienate part of their fan base.
Now to letter number three, which I find most concerning of all.
The Seattle Times sent Smiley’s campaign a cease-and-desist letter on September 21, taking issue with use of its logo in her ad about the closed Starbucks shop.
The Times appears to take issue with its logo being shown on screen without permission. Here are the two instances:
Just like any other corporation, the Times has a right to protect its brand. But as a news organization, it has a duty to apply those rules evenly - especially when an election is at stake.
As Smiley's camp pointed out in a press release, Murray used the Times logo in her ads multiple times in 2016. Those ads remain up on YouTube, which would lead to the conclusion that there were no trademark disagreements that led to their removal.
Again, there could be explanations for this, but the Times has so far failed to provide one - even in its own reporting on the issue.
On Saturday, Times reporter David Gutman wrote a story about the trademark claims against Smiley. The article did not answer the single most important question: Why was Murray allowed to use the Times logo, but Smiley wasn't?
It is a fair question.
In an email exchange on Friday, Times Senior Vice President of Marketing and Public Service Kati Erwert told me:
"The Seattle Times permits candidates to use our logos and marks without charge if done so in a non-misleading manner that providers readers and voters accurate information. Ms. Smiley’s ad left the mistaken impression The Times has endorsed her campaign, which violates our policy. Her characterization of this as playing favorites to a specific campaign or political party is inaccurate and a misrepresentation."
I pressed Erwert for clarity on two fronts:
- What about the use in question gives the impression that The Times has endorsed her campaign?
- Was the Times comfortable with Patty Murray's usage of the logo in 2016 because it had endorsed her campaign in that race?
She declined further comment.
As a news organization, I would encourage the Times to be more transparent on this matter - even if they think the answer seems obvious. My gut tells me Murray's use was acceptable since the articles were actually about her, while Smiley's were not. If that's the case, the Times should simply say so.
More on this tomorrow on the show.
Is there no bottom in the briefing room?
Remember when the daily White House press briefings were so mundane that the average American had probably never watched one?
Oh, to experience mundanity again.
While I have my complaints with each of the past three press secretaries, Karine Jean-Pierre has brought the briefing room to a new low with her unwavering commitment to gaslight the public.
This week, despite being pressed by multiple reporters in the room, Jean-Pierre refused to make a simple and obvious acknowledgment that President Biden made a mistake when he called out for the late Congresswoman Jackie Walorski at an event. I discussed it at length on Friday’s podcast.
A press secretary is naturally going to try to protect the reputation of their boss, I don’t think anyone would fault her for that. But this goes well beyond routine efforts to spin narratives in a president’s favor. Don’t forget who pays her salary: you.
I’ve long shared my frustration with taxpayer-funded mouthpieces who protect elected officials at all costs. In fact, I’ve previously called for there to be a law against public spokespeople knowingly lying with the intent to conceal. Does that go too far? Perhaps. But stop for a second to think about the insanity of paying people to lie to you. Especially people you can't vote out of office. What's the recourse?
Sharing this tweet from 2020 Libertarian VP nominee Spike Cohen, simply because I think it’s hilarious. I also wouldn’t be surprised if this is where we’re heading.
Where Seattle went wrong
I had the privilege this week to address the Gwinnett County (Georgia) Chamber of Commerce while they were in Seattle for a leadership convention. I’ve posted the remarks in full here if you’d like to listen.
My remarks reflect what I believe to be the true problem facing our country today: A divide between reasonable and unreasonable, rather than between warring political factions.
Reasonable people exist across the political spectrum and no one party has the market cornered on common sense. I would take a pragmatist who I had fundamental policy disagreements with over an ideologue who can't be reasoned with.
Presidential Patrons, please mark your calendar for our October 16 event in Bellevue, Washington. You should have received a direct message on your Patreon account about this. RSVP as soon as possible.
Thank you to everyone who attended our virtual September Q&A – it was a lively one! My apologies for the technical issue off the start, but thanks for sticking with it. It was a lot of fun.
Miranda wanted to say thank you to everyone who reached out asking if she was OK down in Florida. Luckily, Miami was relatively untouched by the storm, but the devastation left behind by Hurricane Ian is profound. If you would like to donate, the Red Cross and Volunteer Florida are good options.
Have a great Sunday and thank you for supporting this mission to give common sense a comeback!