October 28th, 2008
06:32 PM ET
14 years ago

GOP targets Murtha over 'racist' comment

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/28/art.murtha.cnn.jpg caption="A new ad targets Murtha's comments."](CNN) - The National Republican Campaign Committee is using some of its scarce resources to target one of the most senior Democrats in the House–Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania. A new campaign commercial released today uses video clips of Murtha’s recent comments about his Western Pennsylvania district being "a racist area" and "redneck."

The ad also includes a clip from a news conference where Murtha talks about civilians killed in Haditha, Iraq in 2005, saying U.S. Marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood." The ad ends by saying "Enough."

In an interview Oct. 15 with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Murtha predicted Sen. Barack Obama would win the state of Pennsylvania, but said that there was some hesitancy among voters in the western party of state, including the district he represents.

The paper posted video of the interview on its website, with Murtha saying, "There's no question Western Pennsylvania is a racist area." Murtha apologized the next day, but Republicans seized on the remarks. Days later in an interview with a local television station, Murtha said his district years ago was “really redneck.”

The comments were heavily circulated to such a degree that last weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live also included a spoof of Murtha's remarks.

Under campaign finance law the NRCC is allowed to contribute up to $84,000 in "coordinated funds" to an individual campaign. Murtha's challenger is William Russell, an Iraq war veteran. Russell authorized the ad.

A recent poll by Susquehanna University released last Thursday showed the race tightening with Murtha ahead by just four points, and Republicans feel they have an opportunity in an otherwise bleak environment to challenge the high profile Democrat.

Ken Spain, spokesman for the NRCC , said, "John Murtha has called American soldiers cold blooded killers and the voters of his district racists and rednecks. By doing so, he has besmirched the reputation of the voters he claims to represent and turned himself into a national embarrassment in the process."

Meanwhile, Murtha spokesman Matt Mazonkey said, “If Republican William Russell wants to accept help from George Bush that’s his choice, we choose to talk about the issues that matter in this campaign – and I think the voters know the difference between a mouthpiece of the Bush Administration and Mr. Murtha, who is fighting hard for the people of Western Pennsylvania.”

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also tells CNN that the DCCC has paid for an ad criticizing Russell that will begin running later this week.

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. adg

    I dont live in that part of the world but It doesnt seem to matter if your a demicrate or republican you get to be the age of him and mccain you seem to say and do things without thinking. but I also agree with others, thats old news, and mccain is running out of ideas of how to make the dems look bad so hes using anything he can.

    October 28, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. Quiet Conservative

    You libs are a bunch of morons. You hate Bush so much that you are willing to vote for Obama, no matter the cost to our country.

    October 28, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Naomi

    Can't the Republicans run a campaign based on integrity and issues? I guess not.

    October 28, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |

    It isn't defending him, because most and I mean MOST blacks are not racist, even though we have been beaten, enslaved and killed for our rights, we still love and forgive. If Hillary would have one the primary blacks that were going for Hillary what have still voted for Hillary because we vote for the issues and what we believe is right not because of skin. So the man lives there he knows and he probably is a little racist himself.


    October 28, 2008 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  5. Carl29

    I think it could backfire. Murtha has being their Rep. for so much time, and people respect him. If the RNC attacks him for this gaffe, people could think that the GOP is being opportunistic with the poor old man. We'll see 🙂

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. eddie

    Murtha couldn't be more correct about western Pa – my family lives there. He is only guilty of telling the truth

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  7. Edwina

    To Mopy:
    I say CNN should post that interview the same day it posts Sarah Palin's praise for the Alaska Independence Movement. Or, the same day they post information about the speaker she saw at her church who said jewish people were paying the price for not accepting Jesus. Or, when they the full content of the racist book from which she quoted during the National Convention Acceptance Speech. Personally, I don't think they need to do that, each party's platform should be able to rise and fall on its own merits. Sadly, the Republicans have not done that. They, like you, have thrown out divisive, distrating comments. But, Americans are too broke and too tired to be divided. We won't be fooled again.

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  8. Mellie M

    This man's words are fair game. He said them. No one is lying about his comments or making them up. There's nothing wrong with the GOP putting this ad out there and letting the voters make up their own mind as to if their congressman truly represents them.

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  9. Farrell, Houston, Tx


    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. GA Independent

    Murtha's comments were over the top – but probably honest – a rare thing in a politician these days. There are plenty of racists scattered throughout the country – lots here in GA. But the funnier part is that when McCain showed up to talk to those Murtha-labelled "racists" McCain said he couldn't agree with him more (meaning agree with Murtha) and then he tried to fix it again and on the third try McCain finally got it right saying that those folks weren't racist.

    It seems pretty desperate for the Republicans to pick this issue to advertise... after all, how long will it take for the Dems to publicize McCain's agreement with Murtha? Both parties tarred with the same brush.

    Disgusting. No substance.

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. George

    We know Murtha doesn't speak for Obama. The question is, was Murtha speaking the truth?

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  12. Charla in TX

    Here lies the whole problem with racism itself......you all know it's there, you all know it exists, you know if you are one, you know if your acquaintances are.......but you're not supposed to talk about it. You don't say it out loud.

    Well, people, it needs talking about! Continuing to sweep it under the rug is not going to make it go away! The sad thing is, I believe that some people do not want it to go away. How can people WANT to live their lives in such a hateful manner?

    Murtha simply stated a fact about an area of his state. What caused all the fuss is the people who are okay with racism but don't want to be singled out. There again, it's all fine and good, just don't talk about it out loud.

    Racism must certainly be one of the greatest hypocrisies in this country.

    October 28, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  13. Kemo5

    I live here. I know its racist here. These aren't bad people necessarily, but many of them simply would have trouble voting for a black guy. The Muslim accusations and rev Wright stuff that makes its way through the ignorant circles just makes it easy for them to throw onto one big ignorant pile of stupid.

    Murtha was having an honest moment. McCain campaign jumps onto opportunity number 3,452.

    That's all they have -> prey on the ignorant and uninformed.

    October 28, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  14. Electricalcheck Pete

    Glad to see the GOP is doing this, and really showing what they're made of.

    October 28, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  15. Mickey, NY

    A non-issue.

    October 28, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  16. Brian

    Regardless of how many ways the GOP may spin something, it just does not matter anymore. The party has lost it's way, it's voice, it's power and it's once deserved worldwide respect.

    The GOP allowed itself to be hijacked by a Neo-Conservative movement which in the end, will also be it's demise. Thanks to Bush, this end is now in sight.

    October 28, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Yeah

    I live in Philly and was born and raised in western PA. I love my family back home but it is a whole other world back there. Saying that wester PA is racist is not that far from the truth but you cant generalize the entire area there are a lot of good people there.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Derryck S. Griffith

    October 28-2008:

    The Christian Evangelicals & Islamic Jihadism Are The Same:

    Today we are seeing lots of so-called Evangelical e-mails, telephone calls, and other scare tactics, being used advocating for the boycotting or No Vote for Barack Obama, because they believe the world would end if he is elected president of the USA.

    Well, could anyone be so Insane, Irrational, or Paranoid in his or her views?

    Why didn't this Christian God not end the world when the Europeans came to the shores of America, and killed millions of native peoples here?

    Why didn't this Christian God act or end the world when Hitler declared war on Poland, England, and the world?

    Why didn't this Christian God end this world when Africans in the millions were enslaved by Europeans, like the Spanish, British, English Settlers here in America, the Portuguese, and the Italians?

    So this current propaganda that is being spread by these so-called Christians and Republican supporters are indicative of centuries of Christianity, Islamic HYPOCRISY, and is tantamount to EVIL promotion!


    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  19. Arthur James

    Murtha and Biden must be cut from the same cloth – they both put their feet in their mouths with great regularity.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  20. Lost in Texas

    all the stuff that has been yelled at McCain/Palin rallies, the real nice BBQ and fried chicken ad that went out, and most recently the McCain supporter that faked an attack on her by some supposed African-American male Obama supporter and the GOP wants to talk racists statements now? Well racists statements are BAD no matter who says them but the GOP needs to look in their own backyard before they want to make such claims.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  21. turning IN blue from Chicago

    Um... did he lie? lol
    I don't know anything else about him but nothing he said was too far from the truth

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  22. Lisa S. in Mission Viejo, CA

    The truth hurts. I know this area and it is extremely racist.
    God, I wish I could wake up and have it be Nov. 5 with Obama/Biden having won...Truly, I'm sick of the GOP.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  23. Jeff

    I'm from there originally, sorry if the truth hurts. Want to poll racism, look at the vote count there both for McCain and votes cast vs. registered voters.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. republicans hate america

    he's right if it wasnt for all the dumb rednecks in this country we would be so much better off.

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. KLEE

    I keep hearing "socialist" word being thrown around – what do you think social security is!! we are "social" beings – if you want to go live on a rock all by yourself and don't help anyone and help no one in return – be my guest...but meanwhile welcome to planet earth – there are billions of us living here and its all we got and we better help each other and this planet – or what the hell is the point!

    October 28, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
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