Top Obama campaign officials have refused to disavow a controversial and misleading TV ad by the pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action, that suggests Mitt Romney had a role in a woman’s death.
The ad, released Tuesday, features former GST Steel worker Joe Soptic of Kansas City, Mo., who lost his job and health benefits when Romney’s Bain Capital shuttered the factory in 2001. Soptic recounts how his wife became seriously ill shortly after “my family lost their health care” and died three weeks later.
“I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and, furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned,” Soptic says. See the ad HERE.
Various fact-checkers has since pointed out that Soptic’s wife did not die until 2006, five years after GST Steel closed, and that she had health insurance coverage through her own employer for part of that time. It’s also unclear whether having insurance coverage through GST Steel would have meant better prevention or detection of the cancer that ultimately killed her.
In separate appearances on morning talk shows, senior Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs and deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter were pressed on whether the insinuation that Romney contributed to Soptic’s death crossed a line. Both distanced themselves from the super PAC, asserting independence from the group, and claimed to know nothing about Soptic’s case.
“This is an ad by an entity that’s not controlled by the campaign,” Gibbs said on MSNBC. “I certainly don’t know the specifics of this man’s case.”
Cutter on CNN echoed that line: “I don’t know the facts about when Mr. Soptic’s wife got sick, or the facts about his health insurance, but here’s what I do know: That Mitt Romney personally handled the deal to take over GST Steel and he personally handled some of the decisions made to load that company up with debt so much that it went underwater. It went bankrupt.”
Republicans, who have been crying foul over the ad, insist Team Obama is engaging in dirty politics.
While denying any knowledge of “specifics,” they note that Joe Soptic appeared in an Obama campaign TV ad earlier this year and has participated in at least one of the campaign’s conference calls.
As for disavowing ties to Priorities USA Action, Republicans note that President Obama has endorsed direct participation of administration officials in fundraising for the group, funds that then help bankroll TV ads.