I hesitated to draw this cartoon because Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford) is not widely known. That's a good thing, and I don't really want to change that. He's clearly one of those "rally the base" sort of attention seekers who are better off left alone to shake their tiny fists and scream into the void.
Except, of course, when they appear to be doing something truly dangerous, which is exactly what Maddock did last week in proposing a law that would require fact-checkers to register with the state. The Maddock bill would, as the Washington Post reported:
Require fact-checkers to register with the state and insure themselves with $1 million fidelity bonds. Any fact-checker who did not register with the state could face a $1,000 per day fine. The proposed legislation would also allow anyone to sue a fact-checker over “any wrongful conduct that is a violation of the laws of this state.”
So, who or what is a fact-checker? Nobody really knows. But it could be, very conveniently, anybody (especially journalists) who might challenge, find evidence, and refute what Maddock (or his wife, who is co-chair of the Michigan GOP) say is true. Coincidentally, this happens A LOT.
Beyond being a serious attack on the First Amendment, it is the exact opposite of the "government can't be trusted" ideology he and his colleagues supposedly live by. And yes, there's very little chance that this bill will ever become law — Gov. Whitmer would never sign it. Still, it's...well, this is how the conservative Detroit News editorial board put it:
"A group of Michigan Republican lawmakers is floating the idea of registering "fact checkers" with the state. It flies in the face of the First Amendment, and they should ditch this dangerous and dumb idea."
John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.