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RNC’s use of White House raises ethical dilemmas

Northwestern professors discuss ethics of using the White House and how fake news can influence election

EVANSTON, Ill.— As the Republican National Convention continues tonight and tomorrow night, Northwestern University faculty are available to comment on hot topics arising from both the GOP and Democratic conventions.

In a break from longstanding tradition by both parties, viewers saw campaign speeches delivered from the White House property, which raises ethical issues, says Northwestern political science professor Jaime Dominguez.

Dominguez is an assistant professor of instruction in the department of political science in the

Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. His focus areas include American culture and politics, race, ethnic and Latino and Chicago politics, as well as the politics of immigration. He can be reached at j-dominguez@northwestern.edu or by phone at 312-375-4868.

Quote from Professor Dominguez
“The usage of the White House is a break from the norms of keeping party campaigning separate from official government work. It raises an ethical dilemma in that the RNC could be seen as a legitimate activity endorsed and supported by the federal government. And, it disproportionately benefits GOP voters at the expense of independent and Democratic party voters. To use government resources and property to carry out and endorse party ideologies and policies is something that we have not seen in contemporary politics.”   

Even when corrected, misinformation coming out of the Republican National Convention is likely to influence some voters who remain undecided, says Northwestern researcher and psychologist David N. Rapp.

Rapp is a professor in both the School of Education and Social Policy and the department of psychology and an expert on the cognitive mechanisms responsible for successful learning and knowledge failures, particularly as related to fake news. He can be reached at rapp@northwestern.edu.

Quote from Professor Rapp
“Statements and claims provided in several of the RNC speeches have repeated inaccurate ideas about COVID-19, unemployment rates, conspiratorial claims about political operatives, and other hot-button issues. Even when corrections to those claims are offered, the false statements can continue to confuse and persuade audiences. Viewers who already trust those inaccurate sources are obviously difficult to dissuade, but individuals who are still picking a candidate, and even people who are adamantly opposed to inaccurate punditry, can be negatively affected by even the most patently inaccurate of statements.  Worse yet – people who are the most confident in thinking they know the truth are often likely to fall victim to inaccuracies.  So many of the claims offered by the RNC might be scoffed at on social media but can still influence political decisions and election choices.”

For more election experts, visit Northwestern’s 2020 Election Press Kit.