Fact Squad: Meijer goes low, misleads with ad tying Scholten to ‘extremists’

Republican Peter Meijer this week released an ad that uses thin facts to claim his Democratic opponent Hillary Scholten is supported by “extremists” who help rioters. (screenshot)

Republican Peter Meijer is firing first — and going negative — in his campaign against Hillary Scholten for the 3rd Congressional District, claiming she’s backed by “extremists” and riot sympathizers.

In a TV ad that debuted this week, Meijer contrasts his work in the military and cleaning up Grand Rapids after unrest this summer with Scholten, a Democrat he claims is associated with radicals.

The ad concocts a eyebrow-raising conclusion from thin facts. It’s misleading and plays on emotion and fear when the contrast between the candidates is stark enough without hyperbole.

The Claims

The 30-second ad, “On Our Side,” contrasts black-and-white images of Scholten, a Democrat and civil rights attorney, with inspirational video of Meijer, a U.S. Army veteran whose family founded the Meijer retail chain.

Meijer is seen doing good deeds, volunteering during the pandemic and helping veterans. As for Scholten?

“You are the company you keep. So who’s on Democrat Hillary Scholten’s side?” the ad says. “Scholten worked with activists who aided violent rioters and is funded by Hollywood liberals trying to defund the police. Hillary Scholten is backed by extremists.”

The two are vying to succeed Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican-turned-independent who is not seeking re-election, to represent the west Michigan district. 

The Facts

The ad includes no details about the backers of Scholten. When asked by Bridge Michigan for clarification, a spokesperson for the Meijer campaign said the “activists who aided violent rioters” refers to the American Civil Liberties Union, the “Hollywood liberals” are actress and activist Alyssa Milano, and the “extremists” are NARAL-Pro Choice America, Planned Parenthood and Emily’s List.

The three connections:

While they are all based on some truth, the arguments together add up to a conclusion that is shaky at best.

The ACLU is a 100-year-old legal defense group that describes itself as nonpartisan. And while the group has its share of critics and has objected to some criminal charges filed against protesters, there is no evidence it has directly “aided violent rioters.” 

Milano, whom Scholten referred to as her “childhood TV idol” and “phenomenal” women’s rights activist, is singular Hollywood liberal, not the multiple ones as the ad states. 

The three groups that have endorsed Scholten are united in their advocacy for abortion access. No doubt, that is divisive, but extreme? A Gallup poll this May indicates 79 percent believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances and 48 percent of Americans identify as “pro choice.”

“It’s disappointing that Peter Meijer decided to go negative right out of the gate with scare tactics and Washington Republican talking points,” Scholten campaign manager Wellesley Daniels told Bridge.

Asked for comment, Meijer spokesperson Noah Sadler repeated the claims about Milano and called her an “extremist.”

“Ms. Scholten, who herself has labeled my boss a ‘far-right extremist,’ is not the target of our ad, but the questionable company she keeps,” Sadler said.

The Conclusion

The ad uses provocative and vague language to demonize Scholten, which is a disservice to voters because the facts speak for themselves.

Scholten is a progressive, who spent her career fighting for traditionally liberal causes such as housing equity and LBGTQ and immigration rights. 

Meijer is a conservative — describing himself on his campaign website as “100 percent pro life” who favors a strong military and reduced regulations. 

Voters would be better served with ads that highlight that contrast, rather than demagoguery.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Fri, 09/18/2020 - 8:37am

Peter Meijer’s campaign shows how he will legislate should he be elected. This false, misleading character is not the one we need legislating for Michigan. In November the choice is clear. Hillary Schloten for clear, steady, compassionate leadership.

C.A. Stever
Fri, 09/18/2020 - 12:18pm

Peter is not wrong. Scholten is a NARAL-endorsed candidate. I would say a group that supports the killing of babies up until the moment of birth is extremist.

enough already
Mon, 09/21/2020 - 2:27pm

C.A. Stever, you must be "pro birth" after which you don't give a rat's behind about the life of the child or the child's family.

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 12:53pm

This factchecking is thinly disguised political message worded as a factcheck. It is not your job to determine if your interpretation of association is correct or not.

Jake K
Fri, 09/18/2020 - 4:12pm

Agreed, Mkc. Bridge reporters have been engaging in personal portrayals rather than news reporting. Independent reporting is what we seek and Bridge claims to provide. I definite see the Bridge posture leaning a bit.

middle of the mit
Fri, 09/18/2020 - 5:14pm


See, we are done using "interpretations" as fact. Here is an interpretation.

Bill Clinton is a cheater. Donald Trump is a cheater.

Bill Clinton + Hillary Clinton = 1 marriage.

Donald Trump + Ivana - Ivana + Marla Maples - Marla Maples + Melania = 3 marriages. Unless Ivana and Marla got remarried.

Those are interpretations, but the math is a fact.

And Bridge is doing waaay less interpreting than say...........FOX or OANN. And how do you say it isn't their job to determine whether or not their interpretation is correct or not? You should do that on your own, but it's nice when you have others who are paid to do it, do it. You might not like the outcome......but it's getting colder out....and I don't like that. Can I interpret that away? Maybe I could find a weather channel that would cater to me and those who like warm weather and I could live in a fantasy land...................if I have the blinds closed and don't pay attention to the heater or ..........................................go outside....

Mon, 09/21/2020 - 2:23pm

Truth hurts?

Erwin Haas
Fri, 09/18/2020 - 2:36pm

"to dismiss charges, or not to pursue prosecutions, in cases arising from the protests of the past two weeks.
Folks who were arrested were not marching or praying for justice; they were arrested for looting, arson, and vandalism. For the ACLU to ask that these criminal charges be blown off in the name of "Justice" indicates to me that they approve of violence.

“Fact checking”
Sat, 09/19/2020 - 8:22am

I’m a little tired of interpretations being called “fact checking”.

All of the claims made you confirmed in this fact check. Your opinion that they add up to a “shaky at best” conclusion are just that, opinion. I subscribe for your news, not your opinions.

Mon, 09/21/2020 - 2:21pm

What did you expect? Republicans feel they can only win by lying and cheating, backing Trump, the Liar-in-Chief. That's why I stopped shopping at Meijer and eating at Anna's House. It's a pity because they are both great Michigan businesses and I love to support local businesses with my hard earned money, but I don't like funding Republicans who hate treating all people as equals and deny the climate crisis. Unfortunately these legitimate businesses associate themselves with political monkey business. Even worse, as a Christian, I especially abhor the lying and cheating hypocrisy of right-wing Evangelicals that turn a blind eye to that behavior. They seem more interested in Machiavelli's "The Prince", than they do Jesus and the Holy Bible.