August 8th, 2012
07:10 PM ET
2 years ago

Pro-Obama super PAC defends controversial ad

(CNN) - Bill Burton, the co-founder of the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action, said Wednesday he "absolutely" stood by an ad tying Mitt Romney to the loss of insurance and eventual death of a laid off steel worker's wife.

"The point of this ad is to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic, and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of decisions that Mitt Romney made," Burton said on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." "This is one of a series of ads in which we talk about the very long lasting impacts that Mitt Romney's decision had on these communities, on these individuals and their families."

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Priorities' ad, released Tuesday but yet to actually air in a paid commercial time slot, ties Mitt Romney to the death of a former GST Steel worker's wife after the employee lost his job when the plant closed down. Romney's former private equity firm, Bain Capital, acquired GST Steel in 1993, but the company went bankrupt in 2001, two years after Romney ceased day-to-day oversight of Bain.

The ad features Joe Soptic, a former worker at the Kansas City-based steel plant, as he tells the story of how he lost health insurance benefits when the plant shuttered and reveals that his wife passed away of cancer soon after that.

A closer look by CNN poked holes into the ad's timeline. Soptic says in the spot his wife became ill "a short time" after the plant closed down in 2001, but Ilyona Rae Soptic passed away in June 2006.

Asked in Wednesday's interview if Romney was responsible for Soptic's wife death, Burton said "absolutely not."

But Burton disagreed that viewers were left with an impression that Romney was culpable.

Blitzer, pressing Burton, said, "Anybody who watches that 60 second ad comes away and says Mitt Romney is responsible, at least indirectly, for this lovely woman's death."

"I just don't think that's true," Burton said.

He added, "It's clearly lost on some folks, make no mistake about that, but the truth is what this ad is about is what Mitt Romney wants his campaign to be about."

Asked about the ad on Tuesday and Wednesday, Obama campaign officials refused to comment, saying the legal separation between campaigns and super PACs meant they had no part in the spot's production. Burton, who co-founded Priorities USA in 2010, previously served as deputy White House press secretary, and was a campaign spokesman for Obama in 2008.

"You do know that we don't have anything to do with Priorities USA," Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter said on CNN's "Starting Point." "That's by law, we're not allowed to coordinate with them, and by law we don't have anything to do with their ads."

Cutter continued, saying she didn't "know the facts of when Joe's wife got sick or when she died."

Jen Psaki, an Obama campaign spokeswoman, echoed those remarks aboard Air Force One Wednesday, telling reporters on the way to an Obama campaign speech "we don't have any knowledge of the story of the family."

Those remarks were immediately bashed by Republicans, who pointed out that Soptic told the story of his wife's illness on an Obama campaign conference call in May.

"With unemployment at a five-month high and stagnant economic growth, President Obama and his campaign are willing to say and do anything to hide the President's disappointing record," Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said. "But they're not entitled to repeatedly mislead voters. Americans deserve better – they deserve a president who's willing to run an honest campaign and be honest about his own record."

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Filed under: Bill Burton • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (69 Responses)
  1. GysgtG

    Of course they defend it. Liberals know that lies and distraction is the only platform they have.

    August 9, 2012 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  2. Bob Ramos

    Burton is dead wrong. I intend to vote for Obama and even I find the ad offensive because it contains too many lies. Now that its lies have been made public it will be counter productive to the Obama campaign for it to continue running. I am also dissapointed in Obama not specifically disowning the ad.

    August 9, 2012 05:17 am at 5:17 am |
  3. loops808

    Hmm...every news cycle is still talking about the ad this morning, but absent from CNN's morning telecast. I guess CNN is not going to address that Obama staffers claimed to have not known about the facts of this man's situation, which was a lie because there is audio of a conference call with the Obama staffer.

    August 9, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  4. Matt

    Change we can believe in!

    August 9, 2012 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  5. IDontBelieveIt

    "Innacurate" is a poor substitute for the truth – the AD is a LIE
    Obama's team saying they 'didn't know' the story when it was brought up at their May Conference is a LIE.
    Reid's hissy fit about Romney not paying taxes for 10 years is a LIE

    How could anyone vote a proven LIAR back in office? Democrats KNOW they've failed -- they won't TALK about the real issues resulting from their failures -– so they LIE to ditract from the truth?

    Romney 2012. He's the last chance for America.

    August 9, 2012 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  6. jacksays

    Super PACS need to be made illegal and fast.

    August 9, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  7. bassman

    Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter appeared on CNN Wednesday morning to say that "I don't know the facts" about the case of Joe Soptic Soptic.
    Cutter said she didn't know when Soptic's wife fell ill, or about his health insurance.
    Yet in May of this year, Cutter herself hosted a conference call in which Soptic detailed his case to reporters. During the call, as he did in the ad, Soptic explained how his wife fell ill after he lost his job, and how he lost his health insurance.

    August 9, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  8. FedUp

    Cancer killed his wife. She probably had it long before he lost his job. If it makes him feel better to blame someone, then by all means, have fun. We said that when we first saw the ad. My 10 year old granddaughter saw it at her house, and asked why this guy was blaming Romney when it was the cancer's fault. Her mom died of cancer. It's a nasty disease. Millions have died from it, and it wasn't anyone's fault.,

    August 9, 2012 06:27 am at 6:27 am |
  9. Marie MD

    It doesn't matter what the flip flopping campaign says or does. All you have to do is go back to 2004 and forward to the present and I can see why they are so confused . . . . . their twit has changed his mind so many times that anything he says or does or says he didn't say or did he has said or done.
    This is the biggest no cojones candidate in our country's history. This guy wouldn't know the word conviction if it hit him in the face. He is everything you don't want not just in a candidate but in a man.

    August 9, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  10. JR

    This guy evidently has a real problem with honesty. The ad is not factual, and he surely knows this, so why not take pride in his dishonesty. The Demonazi's latest tactic, Chicago style, is to make up absurd things to deflect talk about Barry's terrible handling of the economy. If that's what you want to do and take pride in the effectiveness of a dishonest attack ad then just own up to it.

    August 9, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  11. a hill

    Dude!!! You left out the part where Obama said last night, “You got these guys writing $10 million checks. You got these super PACs that are just … going crazy,”. Romney is no more responsible for that lady's death from cancer than Obama is even remotely responsible for the successful landing om Mars this week of the Curiosity Rover. The ad on your page here says "Dinner with Barack". That is right. Stick a fork in him cause he is done. This country, even those non-minority who voted for him before will not vote for him again. He will retain the black vote for obvious reasons, but that will not be enough. Cutter, the out right liar she is, was bought to light yesterday. She is toast.

    August 9, 2012 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  12. gw

    The only way the public has seen the ad is when the talk shows feature it and then the commentators are "shocked" by it. Obama has nothing to do with the ad and, in fact, he and his staff can't be involved with the ad. So, it seems this is another example of how the talk show folks have created an issue. Thank goodness most people don't watch these shows. And, if they keep it up, these pundits will just be entertaining each other.

    August 9, 2012 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  13. Angela

    Republicans can dish it out but can't handle the same treatment.

    August 9, 2012 07:01 am at 7:01 am |
  14. Anyone thats votes Obama is a traitor to their country

    Ya right, the Obama campaign has no knowledge, if you believe that I have a bridge in New York for sale. Of course the America hating liberals will agree with the ad. lies and decite is what the Obama Presidency is built upon. Vote Obama for a better way to destroy this country, or vote Romney for a better America.

    August 9, 2012 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  15. wgf

    With friends like these, who needs enemies ?

    August 9, 2012 07:15 am at 7:15 am |
  16. GMP

    Mislead? Romney has done nothing but mislead, hide, and lie. I probably would not have voted for Obama, but with Romney being the other choice... I have no choice but to vote for Obama. If Romney releases 10 years of taxes and justifies why he has overseas bank accounts... I will consider him. Till then, I don't trust the guy. He has screwed businesses, employees, and the US government out of taxes. If all other 1% like Romney only pay 14% in taxes while the rest of us pay 24%-27%... that is our deficite. Have all of them pay a flat 27% regardless of investments and we cut our deficite.

    August 9, 2012 07:19 am at 7:19 am |
  17. Oy

    GOP filibusters jobs bill and then blames the President when the economy isn't doing as well as we would like.
    Disingenuous at best!

    August 9, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  18. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    then lets say that obama has murdered the American Dream for our children

    August 9, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  19. GI Joe

    RMoney lies and twists everything to suit him. How much money is he getting paid under the table to do the lackey work for the Kochs?

    August 9, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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