A hard-hitting new ad from the Senate Majority PAC, targeting U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner's longstanding support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest, is provoking an outraged response today from Gardner's campaign:
Senator Udall took his campaign to a disgusting new low today as he watched one of his top supporters spread malicious lies about Cory Gardner in a new television ad. Senate Majority PAC, which has run numerous false and misleading ads against Cory, is once again broadcasting more dishonest attacks.
“After nearly 20 years in politics, Senator Udall should be ashamed to stake the last stage of his career on a blatant falsehood,” campaign spokesman Alex Siciliano. “This ad is outrageous and makes multiple false claims…"
In a separate release, Gardner surrogate Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) responds similarly:
“There is such a thing as going too far in political advertising and Senator Udall and his allies have done it in this new ad. Rape victims should not be used as a political football and the fact that Senator Udall and his allies are content with exploiting rape victims to win reelection should cost him the support of women for using tragic circumstances as a tool for his gain. This ad lies about Cory Gardner three times in thirty seconds and uses the word ‘rape’ five times to lie about the Congressman’s record. It’s extremely disappointing to see a Senator from Colorado and his allies resort to these shameful and divisive tactics in an attempt to further his political ambitions. The ad should be removed from Colorado’s airwaves immediately.”
Gardner's campaign asserts "multiple" false claims in the ad, but the only claim they actually attempt to refute is the line about Gardner having sought to "redefine rape to mean only forcible rape." This claim refers to Gardner's cosponsorship of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act in 2011. Politifact rates a similar claim made by Rep. Gwen Moore as "Mostly False." Here's what Politifact concludes, and you can judge for yourself:
Moore said House Republicans "tried to change the definition of rape."
Her statement contains an element of truth, in that GOP members sought to change when federal money for abortions could be used in cases of rape, by using the term "forcible rape."
But the claim ignores critical facts that would give a different impression — the House Republicans’ effort was not to change the definition of rape, per se, but rather to restrict the use of federal funds in abortions.
We find this interpretation overly charitable to Republican sponsors of the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, since they most certainly were trying to change the meaning of the term "rape" in existing law–to require the rape to be "forcible" in order to be eligible for abortion funding. As the ad says, that would mean many rape victims would not be considered victims for the purposes of abortion funding. But since Politifact decided this claim is dubious, and we have generally considered Politifact to be authoritative, we're obliged to note all of this for the record.
With that said, Sen. Roberts' claim that this ad "uses the word ‘rape’ five times to lie about the Congressman’s record" is plainly meant to deceive. The ad talks about Gardner's longstanding support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Other than Roberts' misleading attempt to attribute all use of the word "rape" to the one claim about H.R. 3 the Politifact story deals with, Gardner's campaign makes no attempt to refute that allegation.
The reason is simple: it's true. Gardner has consistently supported banning all abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, throughout his political career. No amount of surrogate outrage and semantic misdirection can change that. Knowing that helps explain the increasingly shrill response from Gardner's campaign, intended to provoke an emotional rejection of the claim before the audience ever gets the chance to think about it.
Once they do, as the polls show, Gardner has a big problem.