U.S. Supreme Court

GOP Ad Alters Audio of Health Care Arguments, Making Solicitor General Appear Bumbling

A website ad by the Republican National Committee has altered audio of Solicitor General Donald Verrilli’s oral argument in favor of the health care law to make him appear at a loss for words.

The ad portrays the opening seconds of Verrilli’s argument on the constitutionality of the insurance mandate. Bloomberg News discovered the alteration, and the Associated Press followed with a story.

In the actual opening, Verrilli paused once to drink water and stopped talking for a few seconds before he continued, Bloomberg revealed. In the altered ad, however, he pauses for about 20 seconds, coughs, sips water and stutters. “Obamacare,” the ad reads. “It’s a tough sell.”

RNC communications director Sean Spicer told Bloomberg the ad was a “mash-up” that spliced together several pauses and stutters by Verrilli in the first two minutes of his argument.

SCOTUSblog founder Tom Goldstein expressed outrage. “I’ve been in practice for 17 years, and the blog has existed for 10, and this is the single most classless and misleading thing I’ve ever seen related to the court,” he wrote. “It is as if the RNC decided to take an incredibly serious and successful argument that has the chance to produce a pathbreaking legal victory for a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, drag it through the mud, and vomit on it.”

The ad could affect court transparency in the future, Goldstein says. “The court made a special exception in releasing the oral argument tape for the health care arguments so promptly, and it probably will hesitate before doing so again,” he wrote. “If there were any chance that the justices would permit cameras in the court, I do not see happening now.”

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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