ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Rigel Anderson report: Barack Obama came under fire from the McCain campaign on Tuesday for backing state legislation which would have armed public school teachers in Illinois – including those who teach students as young as kindergarten – with sex education standards.
"Learning about sex before learning to read?" asks the narrator in a new ad from John McCain. "Barack Obama. Wrong on education. Wrong for your family."
Watch it HERE.
The criticism of Obama on sex education stems from his work in the Illinois state senate on legislation which would have taken the state’s entire sex education standards, which related to 6th through 12th grade, and applied them to all of K-12.
The legislation, which was never enacted, included an "opt out" provision for parents.
Sex education for kindergarteners first entered the presidential campaign on July 17, 2007 when Obama discussed his views on the topic while appearing before a Planned Parenthood conference in Washington, D.C.
Watch Video HERE.
Obama was asked his position on sex education and he mimicked an attack that was launched on him in his 2004 Senate campaign by Republican Alan Keyes.
"Barack Obama supports teaching sex education to kindergarteners," said Obama mimicking Keyes’ distinctive style of speech. "Which — I didn’t know what to tell him (laughter)."
"But it’s the right thing to do," Obama continued, "to provide age-appropriate sex education, science-based sex education in schools."
When Obama’s campaign was asked last year by ABC News to explain what kind of sex education Obama considers "age appropriate" for kindergarteners, the Obama campaign pointed to an Oct. 6, 2004 story from the Daily Herald.
"’Nobody’s suggesting that kindergartners are going to be getting information about sex in the way that we think about it,’" Obama told the Daily Herald. "’If they ask a teacher ‘where do babies come from,’ that providing information that the fact is that it’s not a stork is probably not an unhealthy thing. Although again, that’s going to be determined on a case by case basis by local communities and local school boards.’"
The legislation Obama supported also envisioned teaching kindergarteners about how to recognize "inappropriate touching."
Bill Burton, Obama’s national press secretary, responded on Tuesday to McCain’s ad with a sharply worded statement.
“It is shameful and downright perverse," said Burton, "for the McCain campaign to use a bill that was written to protect young children from sexual predators as a recycled and discredited political attack against a father of two young girls — a position that his friend Mitt Romney also holds. Last week, John McCain told Time magazine he couldn’t define what honor was. Now we know why."
Burton invoked Romney because the former Republican presidential candidate indicated to Planned Parenthood in 2002 that he supports the teaching of "responsible, age-appropriate, factually accurate health and sexuality education, including information about both abstinence and contraception, in public schools."
Prior to Romney’s tenure as governor, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts promulgated a set of K-12 goals for the teaching of sex education. Those standards remained in place during Romney’s time as governor and he did not challenge them.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom nevertheless distinguished the position of the former governor from what Obama backed in Illinois by saying that Romney did not think that any element of sex education should be taught in kindergarten.
"The issue is whether children in kindergarten should be taught science-based sex education which is what Obama said he favors," Fehrnstrom told ABC News last year. "Gov. Romney does not support that. Let’s let our 5-year olds be 5-year olds."
Obama was targeted by McCain on sex ed after launching his own ad on education which attacked McCain for backing private school vouchers and for his one-time support for eliminating the Department of Education.
Watch it: HERE
McCain’s ad will air nationally on the Fox News Channel. It will also be seen in certain broadcast television markets in the states of Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missourri, Ohio, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, responded to Burton’s attack on the former POW’s honor by saying: “The Obama campaign has not disputed any of the facts in our ad, but if they want to question John McCain’s honor and record of service to this country, then that’s a debate we welcome.”
SCRIPT FOR McCAIN’s "EDUCATION" TV AD (:30):
ANNCR: Education Week says Obama "hasn’t made a significant mark on education".
That he’s "elusive" on accountability.
A "staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly".
Obama’s one accomplishment?
Legislation to teach "comprehensive sex education" to kindergartners.
Learning about sex before learning to read?
Wrong on education. Wrong for your family.
JOHN MCCAIN: I’m John McCain and I approved this message.
View the ad here.
ABC News’ Tahman Bradley contributed to this report.