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)
  1. snow

    The ad is a lie done by liars for obama who has a history with a loose relationship with the truth. Governor Romney had been gone from Bain for 06 years when this lady died and when she died she had her own medical coverage from her job. Even the Washington Post gave this a 4 long noses for being as inaccurate as is possible.

    August 8, 2012 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  2. deegeejay

    My dad passed away last year – mainly because the VA drug its feet due to Obama administration changes. I hold him personally responsible.

    August 8, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  3. Deb in MT

    Mittens needs to understand that his fun & oh so personally profitable decisions (like closing companies, laying off workers, raiding the pension funds, etc) do have lasting consequences for the very real human beings that inhabit the great big non-Mittens world.

    August 8, 2012 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  4. normajean @ verizon ,com

    People can take offense at this ad if they want....."the truth hurts" and besides it's no worse than ads thown against our president ,in numbers, every day!!!Thousands of painfull things like this are happening all over this country with the Repubs hiding the truth or putting blame elsewhere. They DON'T care!!!From the first day of this administration we where told they didn't care and were not going to help get our country back together.. They have worked hard at keeping their word on thatso now they can just take the consequences!!!!!THEY AREN'T GOING TO LIKE THEM, EITHER!!!!!!!!

    August 8, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  5. J.V.Hodgson

    What the ad does not do which is why it is wrong is give the timescale on all the events. Therefore in that sense it is difficult to justify and for my feeling a step too far. However in this guy and his wife's circumstances its all as life actually happened for them. It is the media that links his statements as meaning Romney was responsible for her death, he says she died partly because they could not afford health care as a result of his Job loss.
    The idea that Romney just because he was doing the olympics was totally not interested or in agreement with people he employed actions at Baon Capital is ridiculous especially as he remained CEO and 100% single beneficial owner. In that three year period 1999 to 2002 he would at least daid Ok to any deal his colleagues proposed ask any one who negotiated with Bain he was final arbiter that was his style and remains so to this day I do not need to release my tax returns and I wont.

    August 8, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  6. enuff

    They don't have to do a buy with this commercial. They managed to get a ton off mileage out of this FOR FREE and they can say they didn't do anything because IT NEVER AIRED! Talk about brilliant!

    August 9, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  7. Sheriff JOE

    Sheriff JOE Sheriff JOE Sheriff JOE Sheriff JOE

    August 9, 2012 12:03 am at 12:03 am |
  8. Lizzie

    "Cutter continued, saying she didn't "know the facts of when Joe's wife got sick or when she died." yet she had a lengthy
    Telephone discussion with Joe Soptic back on May 2012 about this subject, also the same Joe was in an Pres.Obama commercial. Mr.Soptic's wife had her OWN insurance through her employer never through the Steel Mill, she was diagnosed with cancer 5 years after he lost his job and died in 2006. Now the question arises is this administration coordinating with the Super PAC, which is against the law, or does the press cover this up just like all the other lies.

    August 9, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  9. terryrayc

    Isn't this the normal Obama play book attack? Have someone else say something and then claim you had nothing to do with it.

    August 9, 2012 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  10. Truth or Consequences?

    People may be missing a critical point... If, as Romney proposes, the current healthcare law was repealed, people would not have good healthcare protection and some would suffer unnecessary illnesses and death. The Bain Capital scenario is a glimpse of reality. Did Romney murder the woman? Of course not – but the consequences of throwing the family on the street could have easily caused her to avoid the cots of medical care. Think of other Republican "visions"... When environmental protections are removed actual people get sick and suffer debilitating diseases including cancers. Some die horrible, premature deaths due to preventable environmental exposures. When we start wars Soldiers get wounded and many die! These are things the Republicans always promote but ignore the reality of the actual consequences.

    August 9, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  11. Daniel

    I have decided this week to vote for Romney. Between this episode of the Obama surrogates denying any affiliation with Soptic and then Obama himself remaining silent about Harry Reid's gutter politics I am done done done.
    You have disappointed me Mr. President. I thought you were a different kind of political figure.

    August 9, 2012 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  12. jeff

    Nothing wrong with running a false ad nowadays. Fox News set the standard that if you repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth.

    August 9, 2012 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  13. SafeJourney

    Joe Soptic lost his health insurance because of Mitt and thousand more people lost thier health insurance because of Mitt

    August 9, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  14. Thinker

    Repubs keep steping in it. Go Obama

    August 9, 2012 12:43 am at 12:43 am |
  15. hate from the left but mostly lies

    Not to mention the lady died four years after Romney left Bain and the healthcare they got from the steel mill was not their primary healthcare. But who has time to care about silly little things like facts when we need to prop up Obama's shoddy record!

    August 9, 2012 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  16. scottye

    Wow, let's see how many blatant lies has Romney said? He doesn't even admit his lies.

    August 9, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  17. Beth Vokoun

    Just how stupid do you think the American public is. Only a total moron would believe your really "transparent" answers tonight. Shame on you. Playing stupid is not an attribute. I don't know that this revelation will change anyone's mind, as for voting for Obama, but it should ! Lie Lie Lie! Go ahead and play stupid and uninformed. It will catch up with you.

    August 9, 2012 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  18. John

    The ad is stupid and an embarrassment. Stupid because the connection made is both too complex and too spurious. Bad things happen and they happen for a lot of reasons. The very LEGAL work Romney did at Bain might even be a contributor in this story, but it is absurd to zero in like this ad does.

    The true story of Mitt Romney is much simpler and more horrible. Everything Romney does has the purpose of putting more and more of the nation's resources into the ownership/control of fewer and fewer people. This is antithetical to democracy, and as such it is evil.

    August 9, 2012 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  19. 0rangeW3dge

    This is exactly why Supper PACs are a stupid and dangerous idea.
    This ad campaign is desperately childish and harms the candidate that it is supposed to "help"

    August 9, 2012 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  20. BOZO

    BurtonBlitzer: I think that your folks are just bʔzo to think that American believe on this wacko ads! We know what wrong and what right.

    August 9, 2012 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  21. breezy

    since when did the GOP care about facts? they have been ignoring them since goldwater left office

    August 9, 2012 02:33 am at 2:33 am |
  22. Melo-D

    Hey CNN, while you are "poking holes" in the timeline of this ad you let Newt Gingrich come on your network and make blantantly false statments about welfare while barely questioning him on his rhetoric. It appears CNN has fox envie.

    August 9, 2012 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  23. tammyk tammy

    Yep, that ad is exactly what Robmoney wants his campaign to be about – outsourcing jobs, stealing workers benefits, and repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. NICE JOB you did on this steelworker and his wife. Christians beware of voting for this man. JESUS was a healer, not a greedy Vulture Capitalist moneychanger pig.

    August 9, 2012 03:19 am at 3:19 am |
  24. Cam Spurgeon

    Put yourself in the scenario. You are a 50 something employee who has worked at same company for 30 years lose your job,insurance, and pension and in all praticality can no longer support your family or their hopes etc. Hes not accusin Romney of murder, he is accusing Romney Bain tatics of affecting his whole life and the lives of others with their decisions for many years. You media are so black and whit you can't seem to get what he is talking about. What if you are a camera guy or a janitor at CNN for almost 30 years and lose your job,retirement and medical because of the decisions of a few. You be all rosy about it? I think ad is very fair and I don't think Romney is guilty of murder. But I sure don't see where these kind o ethics and experience qualify him to be my President and I will vote accordingly. Show us the taxes...

    August 9, 2012 03:29 am at 3:29 am |
  25. Leila

    Wow, this Bill Burton guy is beyond disgusting...I can't believe that he would sit there and justify this ad. I was undecided on whom to vote for until I saw this video.

    August 9, 2012 05:10 am at 5:10 am |
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