In a campaign season of negative ads, it’s one of the nastiest.
In it, Florida Rep. Alan Grayson (D) – the man who once said the Republicans' health-care plan was for ill Americans to "die quickly" – calls Republican challenger Daniel Webster “Taliban Dan” and compares him to “religious fanatics” in Afghanistan and Iran.
But the stir it’s causing may end up helping Mr. Webster.
It repeatedly runs clips of Webster saying wives should submit to their husbands. But the clips, asserts the website, are taken out of context. “In fact,” says the website, “Webster was cautioning husbands to avoid taking that passage as their own. The unedited quote is: ‘Don’t pick the ones [Bible verses] that say, “She should submit to me.” ’ ”
The ad makes other claims about Webster’s views, some of which – like the fact that he believes abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape – are true. But others, like its assertion that Webster would “deny battered women … the right to divorce their abusers,” factcheck.org calls a distortion. It’s based in legislation that Webster sponsored 20 years ago that would have given people the option of a “covenant marriage,” which could only be dissolved in cases of adultery.
Congressman Grayson, meanwhile, defended his ad.
“What’s not out of context by any stretch of the imagination is the fact that he has a terrible record on women’s rights,” he told MSNBC, noting that Webster subscribes to the tenets of the Institute of Basic Life Principles, which believes women should not work outside the home, and once voted to eliminate health care for battered women on the basis that battery is a preexisting condition.
Webster’s campaign, meanwhile, issued a statement Monday from Webster’s wife Sandy calling the ad “shameful.”
It’s not the first time Grayson has been taken to task over his ads. An ad earlier this month contended that Webster was a draft dodger who evaded military service in Vietnam because “he doesn’t love his country.” “It’s one of the nastiest we have seen so far this year, and it’s false,” wrote factcheck.org in its analysis.
Florida’s Eighth District, where the two men are running, has become a hot contest as Republicans try to take back what has long been a GOP stronghold until Grayson was elected in 2008. Although it’s characterized by relatively moderate voters – a quarter of whom are independents – it’s now home to a race with a sharp ideological divide, between a devout Baptist who admires tea party politics and a Democratic incumbent who has become a “poster boy for the congressional left,” according an analysis by Time magazine.
Grayson, while clearly facing a battle for reelection, has the upper hand with fundraising, with a $4 million warchest.
Lest he be associated only with attack ads, Grayson released an exaggeratedly positive – almost warm and fuzzy – ad supporting his own campaign at the same time that it put out the “Taliban Dan” spot.