News · Press Release

Washington Post Gives NRCC Ad Four Pinocchios

“Such inflammatory claims should not be made on such flimsy evidence.”

“The National Republican Congressional Committee knowingly produced an ad that was false and together with Tom Kean Jr. repeated outright lies about Tom Malinowski’s record while at Human Rights Watch,” said DCCC Spokesperson Christine Bennett. “This ad should be taken down immediately and Tom Kean Jr. must publicly apologize to Congressman Malinowski and the voters he attempted to mislead for spreading vicious lies.”

Attack ad falsely claims lawmaker helped sexual predators ‘hide in the shadows’
By Glenn Kessler
September 22, 2020

“Malinowski tried to make it easier for predators to hide in the shadows. Malinowski worked as the top lobbyist for a radical group that strongly opposed the national sex offender registry. Law enforcement praised the national sex offender registry that Tom Malinowski led an effort to stop.”

— voice-over of ad released by the National Republican Congressional Committee, released Sept. 15, 2020


But this ad is not attacking Malinowski for anything he may have done in Congress; it makes these charges based on his tenure as an official at Human Rights Watch, a leading nongovernmental organization that exposes human rights abuses around the world.

In his first race, Malinowski was falsely attacked for supposedly lobbying for terrorist rights. (He argued that Guantánamo detainees had a right to a hearing to challenge the basis for their detention — a position later held up by the Supreme Court.)

Somehow, this detail in his past must have escaped GOP researchers in 2018. Let’s take a look.


The Facts

Malinowski is a longtime foreign policy maven. Before joining HRW, he worked at the State Department and the White House National Security Council. During Barack Obama’s second term, Malinowski was named assistant secretary of state for human rights. Interestingly, his registering as a lobbyist — on behalf of the victims of genocide in Darfur and Myanmar, among other issues — prevented his appointment in Obama’s first term because of rules adopted by the new president.

So it was surprising to see the claim that Malinowski was involved in a domestic issue such as the national sex offender registry.

Michael McAdam, NRCC national press secretary, said the ad is based on solid facts: “His name is on the lobbying disclosure lobbying against the sex offender registry.” Moreover, he said, Malinowski’s title was Washington advocacy director, indicating he headed the organization’s Washington activities.


Daskal, a professor at American University, said in an interview that she was the HRW lobbyist for U.S. domestic issues while Malinowski handled the foreign policy side. “I was not working Darfur,” she said. “He was not working these issues,” referring to the sex offender registry.

In media interviews at the time, Daskal was identified as U.S. program advocacy director for HRW.


Emma Daly, an HRW spokeswoman, also confirmed that Malinowski was not involved in legislation. “HRW’s job titles can be a bit confusing, but the Washington director role covers foreign policy,” Daly said. “Jen Daskal worked for the U.S. program, which focuses on U.S. domestic issues.”

Both Daly and Daskal objected to the way the ad framed HRW’s concerns about the legislation. “HRW advocated for laws that better protect children and the public by reforming sex offense registries and focusing law enforcement resources to tackle those most at risk of offending,” Daly said. “The ad wrongly portrays this position as helping ‘predators hide in the shadows’ and otherwise being in favor of sex offenses. That’s false.”

The ad claims HRW was “strongly opposed” to a national sex offender registry. But the letter signed by Daskal did not object to creating one.

Instead, the letter said HRW opposed the bill because the language was so sweeping that it included low-level or misdemeanor offenders, such as people charged with public urination, who were attempting to reintegrate into the community after serving their sentences. “Registration requirements put these individuals at risk of retaliation and discrimination and make it extremely difficult for these individuals to find employment, housing, and to rebuild their lives,” Daskal wrote.


The Pinocchio Test


The supposed evidence is a lobbying disclosure form that lists Malinowski and Daskal as handling dozens of issues, not identifying who was the point person on any of them. But Daskal said she was in charge of domestic issues — a claim backed by her signature on the letter to lawmakers on the issue. Malinowski had the title of Washington advocacy director, but HRW says that means he did foreign policy — which makes sense, given HRW is primarily a foreign policy organization.

Moreover, HRW did not oppose a national sex offender registry as the ad implies.

The bulk of the evidence shows Malinowski played no role in this debate. But he did work for an organization that objected to a type of national sex offender registry created in legislation. That fact might have kept this ad at Three Pinocchios. But the NRCC’s over-the-top language — such as “Tom Malinowski chose sex offenders over your family” — tipped our rating to Four. Such inflammatory claims should not be made on such flimsy evidence.

Four Pinocchios

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