Pryor Campaign Calls On Cotton To Pull TV Ad After Politifact Rates It ‘False’

Oct 10, 2013

A nonpartisan news source that fact-checks campaign political ads says a new TV ad from Cong. Tom Cotton (R) is “false” and the Mark Pryor Senate campaign is calling on Cotton to pull the plug on the spot.

Earlier this week, U.S. Senate hopeful Tom Cotton unveiled a new TV ad declaring that incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D) cast “the deciding vote” for Obamacare and voted “himself and everyone in Congress special subsidies” to protect them from Obamacare, the new federal health law.

The ad is titled “Good for the Gander” and was immediately disputed by the Pryor campaign as a “false attack” full of “bogus” claims.

Tampa, Fla.-based Politifact is a project of the Tampa Bay Times. It hires reporters and researchers to examine politicians’ statements and then rate their accuracy on a “Truth-O-Meter.”

The ratings can be True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False, or the lowest rating, Pants on Fire. Politifact reviewed the Cotton ad and gave the spot one of its lowest grades – “False.”

“The assertion falls wide of the facts, and we rate this claim False,” said Politifact. It drew its conclusion by analyzing Cotton’s claim that a special exemption was received by Congressional staff members. “Cotton said Pryor voted for ‘special subsidies’ for lawmakers and staff in congress ‘so they’re protected from Obamacare.’

The subsidy referred to is the government continuing to share the cost of insurance premiums as is standard practice in every establishment that offers insurance to its workers. There is nothing special about that. The only thing special about Obamacare and Congress is that the law treated Congress and its workers differently than any other group of workers,” Politifact said.

“Cotton relies on an interpretation of the law that independent experts say is wrong.” Politifact also said the claim that Pryor cast the deciding vote for Obamacare was dubious. “The reality is that if any Democratic senator deserves the distinction of clearing the way for the health reform law, it is Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

As was widely reported at the time, Nelson delivered the 60th vote needed to send the bill to the floor for a vote,” said Politifact. “We spoke with Cotton’s staff and they didn’t actually say that Pryor played a unique role.

They hold Pryor accountable because, ‘All of the votes were critical.’ But Pryor’s support for the Affordable Care Act was known well before the final vote.”

The Cotton campaign tells Talk Business Arkansas that it is standing by its assertion that Pryor pushed for special subsidies and was a swing vote for the Affordable Care Act. “Mark Pryor continues to applaud Obamacare, even calling it ‘an amazing success story,’” the Cotton campaign said in a news release unveiling the ad.

“What he won’t tell you is that while he was the deciding vote for Obamacare and has forced that flawed law on Arkansans, he supported a special subsidy and exemption for Congress. Now he has gone so far as to vote for a government shut down in order to keep his special Obamacare subsidy.”

“I wish we could dismiss it, but you’ve heard the saying: a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on,” Pryor campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in an email to supporters. He tells Talk Business that Cotton should pull the ad from rotation.

“For a month, Congressman Cotton has been spreading this exact falsehood in every television interview, tweet and Facebook post, and even on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Now that Congressman Cotton’s attack has been fully debunked and discredited, it’s time for him to do the honorable thing and take down his false ads,” Weaver said.

When asked for comment on Pryor’s request to pull the ad from rotation, the Cotton campaign declined to offer a statement.  Austin Kellerman, news director for KARK Ch. 4 and KLRT Fox 16 in Little Rock, a content partner of Talk Business, made the request for Politifact to review the spot.

He said he has also asked the outfit to review Pryor’s ad, “Silly,” which attempts to discredit Cotton’s Obamacare exemption charge and accuses Cotton of missing votes to attend a campaign fundraiser in Houston during the federal government shutdown debate.

The ad accuses Cotton of being “reckless and irresponsible” and “not doing his job.” Mike Vaughn, general manager of KARK Ch. 4 and KLRT Fox 16, which is owned by broadcast giant Nexstar Corp., said the station’s policy for reviewing and potentially pulling political ads is as follows: If an opposing candidate, issue group or political campaign submits a formal complaint to the station, it will be reviewed; The station will ask for a rebuttal to the ad from the presenting advertiser; After that feedback is received, the TV ad, complaint and rebuttal will be sent to attorneys at the corporate level for review; If deemed factually in error, then a decision could be made to pull the ad.

UPDATE: Justin Brasell, Cotton for Senate campaign manager, responded on Thursday (Oct. 10) to a request for comment regarding the Politifact article and the Pryor campaign suggestion that Cotton’s ad be pulled. Brasell said, “We will not, because the ad is true and well-documented. In fact, we are considering extending our buy.” Brasell said that Politifact’s conclusion on the “special subsidy” claim was disputed by CNN fact checkers who “could not rule the Obamacare exemption ‘false,’ calling it ‘in dispute.’”

He also provided a link to a 2011 story that notes a University of Minnesota study that showed 76% of statements found to be false by Politifact involved GOP candidates or organizations. The research also indicated that 39% of all GOP statements examined were found to be “false” or “pants on fire.”

Brasell cited a slew of technical information, which you can read here, regarding maneuvers and votes surrounding the disputed “special subsidy.”

“By voting to table the amendments (roll call vote 211), Mark Pryor voted for special subsidies for his colleagues and his staff that are not available for anyone else. Roll call vote 211 would have required members of Congress and their staff to adhere to Obamacare as it is written, thereby nullifying the OPM [Office of Personnel Management] ruling,” the information stated. Brasell’s document also underscored the Cotton campaign’s assertion that Pryor was a “deciding vote” for the federal health care law.

“Without Mark Pryor’s vote for Obamacare, the bill would not have become law. All of the votes were critical, since President Obama declined to build bipartisan consensus and instead forced it through on a party-line vote.

It required 60 Democratic votes. Had Mark Pryor not voted in favor, the legislation would not have passed,” the information said.

“The ad is true and well-documented,” Brasell said. “The ad states two major facts: Pryor was the deciding vote for Obamacare, and he voted against a measure to end special subsidies that Congress is receiving.”

“There’s only one person in this race who could have stopped Obamacare from becoming law, and that’s Mark Pryor. Not only is he responsible for this job-killing law that is causing so many thousands of Americans to lose their current health coverage, experience dramatic increases in health insurance premiums or find that their hours are being cut back at work, but Mark Pryor also has consistently opposed efforts to ensure that Congress be required to live under the same rules,” Brasell said.