Campaign Sign Fight Fiction, Reality

When the media gets the facts in a story wrong, it is a great disservice to the public. Once a false narrative gets into the minds of the public it is very difficult to reverse. It is especially frustrating when repeated attempts to correct relevant facts in a story are acknowledged but those elements continue to get reported and repeated.

The most recent local example is the story regarding campaign signs, Rose Herrera’s husband, a videotape, dueling charges and two separate press conferences. So, let us set the record straight on some of the most important misreported facts of the story.

First, nobody in the Jimmy Nguyen campaign or the candidate himself was involved in any part of the alleged sign thefts and assault. (Full disclosure: I work on Nguyen’s campaign.) Many in the press led with the narrative that this was part of a “bitter” fight between Nguyen and Herrera. It was not.

The people involved are Matt Wahlin, Herrera’s husband, and Dustin DeRollo, a political consultant for an independent expenditure committee that opposes Herrera, and, by extension, supports her opponent. The Nguyen campaign did not know of the stakeout “gotcha” moment, the video or any part of the incident until Tuesday, when the story broke.

Why is this a relevant fact? Because the Nguyen campaign has purposely avoided the malarkey that comes with “gotcha” politics. Even as meritless complaints come forward against him, Nguyen has made the decision not to retaliate. The independent committees do not reflect his views and he cannot be held responsible for what they do. The same is true for Ms. Herrera, and Nguyen does not hold her personally responsible for the untrue allegations leveled against him by those groups.

The law prevents coordination between campaign and independent expenditure committees, and the fact is Nguyen has no control or responsibility for the actions of PACs. It should be a relevant fact in the news story.

Some news organizations said he was “unavailable for comment” or “could not be reached for comment.” Horse manure. Jimmy was and is available to the media. Their calls are the first he returns. His comment would have been, “This has nothing whatsoever to do with my campaign.”

This “news event” detracts from the substantive debate between the two candidates. But it is news and when these events occur, the press has a responsibility to report them.

There were news organizations that accurately reported the facts, but many in the media ignored essential details. It is important to note the standard for the media is accuracy, not truth. One can quibble with a headline or some language in the copy. But if a story is accurate, I have no complaint.

Facts matter, and when the media gets it wrong, it has an adverse effect on the public. It is because of my tremendous respect for the profession of journalism and those who do it well, that I was compelled to opine on this matter.

I don’t always agree with what is written, but real journalism is essential to a free society. A fact recognized since our nation’s inception.

Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.

Rich Robinson is an attorney and political consultant in Silicon Valley. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside.


  1. We haven’t seen consistent real journalism here in 30 years.
    Great irony considering SJSU’s “reputation” as a bastion of the discipline.
    Keep trying SJI! Eventually you’ll be the only show in town once you get the FRY’s contract.

  2. Rich,
    I would disagree with you when you say that accuracy over facts is acceptable in the media. The “media” chooses sensationalism, and what sells over EVERYTHING! They don’t care who they hurt, or how they spin things as long as they make money, get readers, viewers, and become number 1. It is pretty sickening if you ask me.

  3. Does a guest column by a political consultant working for a candidate in an election constitute an in-kind campaign donation (which is reportable on campaign finance forms ?)

    Just wondering.  Like if someone donates real estate space for a campaign office, I think the campaign has to report that as a contribution.  And if someone donates a billboard, that’s a donation.  Political speech and social media are different, but if a local newspaper wanted to donate space for their favored candidate, I think that would count as a donation.

    As far as this particular article, District 8 has always been a mess, going back to the 80’s and 90’s when I worked on a few races there.  Race baiting, hate mongering, scare tactics, sign stealing and all the rest are common.  This “I caught you” playbook strategy where some partisans go out of their way to document and shame folks is also not new.  I think you have a right to take down signs on your own property, but illegally posted signs on public property should not be handled.

    It is such a big problem, especially after the election when they rot in place that maybe we should actually start handing out fines for illegally posted signs.

    As far as some big scandal, grow up, get over it, its small fries in a big race that’s as ugly and expensive as a mayoral race.

    • Editorial content of newspapers and media are exempt from Campaign Finance Laws and protected under the first amendment to the constitution.  You will often see guest editorials by campaign partisans in most major publications.

      Advertising is not.

      BTW:  If the media had to declare their editorial content as an in-kind donation.  FOX News, the WSJ and all of the Murdoch publications and talking heads would be up to their neck in paperwork.

      For the record.

      • Speaking of illegally posted signs- It seems odd that Jim Beall is allowed to advertise his State Senate campaign on the big new electronic billboard by Hwy. 85 at Almaden Fashion Plaza. Wasn’t the construction of that sign approved by the City for the sole purpose of allowing the businesses in that shopping center to advertise their presence and not as a general “for hire” billboard? Jim Beall has no office there. Is he being given special treatment?

  4. Great job Rose, when your husband sealing signs of Nguyen and filing a false police report is not enough you throw down the race card.  How low can you go, now we know.

  5. Rose Herrera is bad for Evergreen and the City of San Jose.  The Merc can skew the information in her favor, but the fact still remains that she is an awful individual and a total flip-flopper on issues.  Check out this video:

  6. Of course the Merc would choose to ignore Herrera’s husband’s obsession of stealing her opponent’s campaign signs.  After all, the Merc is the paper that perpetuated a systematic theft of its competitors (METRO)newspaper bins.

    • Mercury news is bad news. I wouldn’t put any value to their articles. All we know, he may have denounce it, but they chose not to print it. I’m not saying he did, but you get the point.

      • sj408,
        Your point is well taken. Rich is his consultant, and I’d like to hear him tell us whether or not Nguyen has or will denounce this kind of tactic.

    • This is the last line in the article…

      “…Nguyen said he opposes racism “in all of its forms” but said he did not consider the mailer quoting Nora Campos to be racist. Moreover, he said, he has no control over an independent committee’s campaign materials.

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