August 8th, 2012
07:10 PM ET
6 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)

    The long bain ripple effects left a middleclass family bank rupt

    August 8, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  2. Tubby the Tuba Texasc

    Of course that was Romneys Job!!

    August 8, 2012 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |

    It doesn't matter anymore ,romney son of boss will probably be in jail in the near future ,and kicked to the curb at the convention,se ya!!!!!

    August 8, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  4. myviewis

    I saw the interview on CNN this morning with Stephanie Cutter, how can she be Obama's Deputy Campaign Manager and not have researched the details of Mrs. Soptic when everyone has been reading the details of this woman's job, health insurance, when she visited the doctor and how she died soon after her doctor's visit. And the details of Mr. Soptic are out there to be read. And Jen Psaki doesn't know that Mr. Soptic was used by Obama's campaign in May?

    Now, I read that Jonathan Levine, Obama's friend and campaign bundler, was in charge of Bain during the GST Steel plant layoffs. How does Mr. Soptic feel towards Obama's friend actually running the show of filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and laying him off???????? It is recorded in legal documents that Jonathan Levine was running Bain. Is CNN going to cover this part of the Bain story?

    August 8, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. Getoverit

    This ad has taken away what little credibility rhe Doomocratic party had. Unbelievable! The lowest of the low! If you vote Doomocrat in November, you are a fool, and all the rest of us can do is pray for you. Probably won't help, though, as prayer might offend someone.

    August 8, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Stuped .

    If it's not true , it's false !

    August 8, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  7. The Elephant In The Room

    Mitt Romney is Vulture Capitalist.

    He is not a businessman in the sense of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Marc Zuckerberg, etc. THEY created JOBS & WEALTH via innovation. They created new, innovative products & services that opened NEW markets. Mitt Romney hasn`t done ANYTHING like that. He pulled money out of corporations while shifting financial liabilities to OTHERS.

    It is dishonest for him to claim that he is an entreprenuer in the same vein as the types of people above. He knows NOTHiNG of what they did to create new companies, that build new products, that result in new jobs.

    As such, there is NO DEFENSE for Mr. Romney`s "Business Career" and the human cost that his vulture activies have wrought.

    August 8, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. Brenda

    In fact the Republican party is to blame for many more deaths than this one due to their continued obstruction to the creation of a decent and moral healthcare system in this country. The mere fact that you can lose your healthcare if you lose your job is a sad reflection of our society.

    August 8, 2012 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  9. T'sah From Virginia

    The doggone ad did not even air yet – Jeez, it does not need to be aired now and the PAC got away with it for FREE – brought to you by the MEDIA!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!

    August 8, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  10. Larry carter

    Congratulations to Wolf for smoking out another lying Obama supporter. They have so many nw it's hard to keep up. Obama cannot run on his record so lies are the democrats last resort to hold onto office..Lowlifes...

    August 8, 2012 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  11. Antony Williams

    Yes send the job to china

    August 8, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  12. dscon

    The prez, reid, wash, msm etc. are nothing but tabloid twitts.

    August 8, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  13. hangar13

    Let me get this straight: Bain Capital buys the company, and eight years later, after Romney has left to run the Winter Olympics, it goes bankrupt. Joe's wife, who was employed and had her own insurance (facts omitted from this article) gets cancer five years later and dies. After four years in office, this is the best the Obama campaign can come up with to make its case for reelection? Honestly, they'd rahter talk about anything than the President's performance in office.

    August 8, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  14. Tell It Like It Is

    I understand the poor woman passed away years AFTER Romney had already left Bain and she had insurance several years after her husband lost his job and she was still employed. Very sad this woman died due to cancer and has a grieving husband, but very doubtful this is Romney's fault. Ads like this will sink Obama's ship if these 'Super Pac' people aren't careful with their disingenuous ads.

    August 8, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  15. Roscoe

    If Joe Soptic has a fiber of moral being in his body, needs to come out and apologize.

    August 8, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  16. Terrance Kozak in Canada

    So we see Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter saying se isn't aware of the facts of Joe Soptic's case. How is that when they were together in a conference call in May. What they forgot to mention is that it was her health insurance by her employer that she used, long after he had lost his. Also, Romney wasn't even there. She died five years after the plant was closed, not immediately. The sad thing about this lie is that Obama knows that even Hitler understood that if you told lies enough times, people might believe it. Is this what your Democratic party stands for? I understand your president has failed the American people like few presidents before him. I see how he can only lie because you Americans are much worse off than before Obama. However, what you see now is a devil with no shame whatsoever. But then again, has he ever won a campaign without being dirty and low? From here in Canada, we offer you our deepest condolences on this piece of filth you call a pfresident. You deserve much better.

    August 8, 2012 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  17. bruce

    CNN: the ad "skimped on facts" Real World = LIED.

    August 8, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  18. dahditdah

    PACs, super-PACs, mega-PACs and the backers of the whole alphabet soup of secret political cash are always going to look for the hook that gets them 'value for money'. Policy differences are nice, but lies are cheaper, and those that are bankrolling the slime machine didn't get all those millions being nice. It seems the Supreme Court reached all the way back to the ancient Roman Republic for the Citizens United decision.

    August 8, 2012 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  19. Dan

    Ryan Williams should tell his canidate to not mislead and show his records. He could start with his tax returns!

    August 8, 2012 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  20. Eric

    Mittt Romney honest? What a joke. He is by far the greatest liar I have witnessed in my lifetime apart from Richard Nixon to seek this office.

    August 8, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  21. Montanajau

    "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."

    So true, but they won't get one. A candidate who told the truth would be massacred. The Democratic ad is awful, but the Republican ad about taking the work out of welfare is just as bad. Don't any of these politicians understand that when they lie or mislead they're causing Americans to vote for the wrong reasons?

    How patriotic is that?

    And why is it that the media seems to have accepted that this is the way it should be? A "rough and tumble campaign" shouldn't be a tall tale contest!

    August 8, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  22. Ed1

    Already found out this is a bold face lie and like all the people that will lie for Obama they will try and put it on an aid and let the big boys slide.

    August 8, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  23. Sarah

    The issue isn't the man's wife's death. It is Mitt's complete disregard for what happens to people when he made decisions that put money in his pocket. Mitt is on a roller coaster ride to the bottom now.

    August 8, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  24. Jett Rink

    If we deserve a presidential candidate who is willing to run an honest campaign and to be honest about his own record, why is Mitt Romney campaigning at all? Surely anyone who is unwilling to release more than two of his last 10 years of tax returns isn't being completely honest about anything at all. Truthfully, Romney scares the hell out of me. Given that every single reason that the country is in this bottomless financial pit is what Romney's policies advocate, can anyone actually believe he has any ideas which may solve our downward spiral?

    August 8, 2012 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  25. Keeping it Real

    You know it's a lie when CNN acknowledges it! Why the Obama campaign has let this get this far one can only speculate. For myself, I believe that if Obama wanted to end this lie, it would have died immediately. Very bad press here for Obama.

    August 8, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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