Controversial anti-Romney ad remains in spotlight Sunday
August 12th, 2012
01:16 PM ET
11 years ago

Controversial anti-Romney ad remains in spotlight Sunday

(CNN) - Political figures on both sides of the aisle sought distance on Sunday from a video produced by the main super PAC supporting President Barack Obama's reelection – an ad which juxtaposes an uninsured woman's death with the closure of a steel mill owned by Romney's firm.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz went as far as to say "I have no idea of the political affiliation of folks who are associated with that super PAC," though she acknowledged the group's leanings in an online post after the show.

- Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

But the super PAC, Priorities USA Action, was co-founded by former White House and Obama campaign official Bill Burton, who told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that he stands by the video and denied it connects Romney and the woman's death.

The spot was announced by Priorities as a television advertisement last Tuesday, and although it has run on television in newscasts and political discussions, it has yet to air as a paid advertisement, according to CNN's advertizing consultant, Kantar Media Campaign Media Analysis Group. Super PACs are required to remain independent of political campaigns.

Former GST Steel employee Joe Soptic says in the video "When Mitt Romney and Bain closed the plant, I lost my health care and my family lost their healthcare. And a short time after that, my wife became ill."

The video makes no mention that Romney has said he left Bain Capital in 1999, that GST Steel was closed in 2001 nor that Soptic's wife left her job (and insurance) after a rotator cuff injury in 2002 or 2003.

"I don't know how long she was sick and I think maybe she didn't say anything because she knew that we couldn't afford the insurance," he said.

His wife was not admitted to a hospital until 2006, which he said was 22 days before her death. "I don't think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone and furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned," Soptic says in the video.

Asked if Obama "agree[s] with what was in that ad," Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod did not offer a direct answer.

"I don't think anybody - anybody believes that Mr. Soptic's wife, that Governor Romney can be blamed for the death of Mr. Soptic's wife, and, frankly, I don't think the ad says that, either," Axelrod said.

"What he can be blamed for is taking that steel company to bankruptcy, walking away with millions of dollars, and leaving workers without pensions, without the health coverage they were promised," Axelrod also said in the interview. "He has run on his business experience, and his business experience is things like the GST Steel story, where he took - where they loaded companies with debt, profited from it to the tune of millions of dollars, and then left workers and creditors holding the bag."

A high-profile Romney supporter and critic of this cycle's harsh campaign rhetoric, Sen. John McCain, on Sunday called the ad "disgraceful."

You run out of adjectives and adverbs," he continued on Fox News, "and is even more so, because the closest advisors to President Obama are the people responsible for that ad. We all know that these connections are there."

Wasserman Schultz's comment that she did not know Priorities' leanings came in a separate interview also on Fox News immediately following McCain's interview. "That is a super PAC that is not affiliated with our campaign or with the party. However–" she said, before the anchor interrupted to ask about the ad itself.

After her interview, she said in a tweet, "Clearly Priorities USA is a Democratic SuperPAC. Was trying to state the obvious: we have no control over their activities."

Asked about the ad, she said, "What I think of the ad is that there's no question that the ad raises facts such as that Mitt Romney when he was CEO of Bain Capital bankrupted companies, laid off workers, cut their benefits and made millions of dollars in profits. That ad points out that there are consequences to making decisions like that that impacted people's live in a significant way."

In their separate interviews, both she and Axelrod pointed out harsh advertisements from Romney's campaign and his allies.

"He says I approve this message, and then he attacks others for ads that we didn't approve and that we didn't produce? I think he's the one who needs to explain," Axelrod said.

McCain declined to say anything of the advertisements his campaign aired in 2008 against Obama.

"The president should denounce an ad that paints a good and decent man, Governor Mitt Romney, who he may disagree with into a person who was responsible for a man's wife's death," McCain said. "I mean, I don't know how you get worse than that. All of us grieve for anyone that loses a loved one. But then to portray Mitt Romney as somehow responsible for that?"

The Priorities spot, McCain said, "makes me sad more than angry."

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams sent a statement to reporters Sunday afternoon, saying, "The entire nation has condemned the shameful attack ad from President Obama's official Super PAC – but you wouldn't know it listening to the President's own advisers. They've repeatedly refused to condemn the ad, and now won't even admit that Democrats run the organization. America deserves better than a president willing to say and do anything to stay in power."

In his CNN interview on Wednesday, Burton of Priorities said "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."

"What we're saying is that Joe Soptic was fired from his job, and as a result of that, he wasn't able to get - he wasn't able to hold onto health-care benefits that were promised to him. And as a result when his wife got sick, he didn't have health care," he said, adding "it will show on TV soon."

- CNN White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar contributed to this report

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Dawn

    This ad is not airing on TV which means conservatives are giving it free advertising. It is also distracting the right from talking about Obama's real damaging ad that IS airing on TV in swing states. Brilliant move by the President Obama's campaign. Distract the right with an internet ad so they can ignore the ad questioning how much Romney has paid in taxes that is actually airing on TV in swing states.

    August 12, 2012 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. drake mallard

    What's happening to Romney is the American People are seeing what this man is all about. He is known for being a coward, ran to France under the guise of his church. In many circles he is a good business man, in others he is a man who broke other men down by closing their companies, these men lost their insurance, lost their pensions and lost their income, to top it off the govt. had to step in with millions to save their retirement income they worked for so many years to save. and he keeps his money offshore and won't admit to what he's playing in taxes. Total CON ARTIST!!!!

    Anyone in their right mind can't vote Romney.

    George Romney resisted releasing a single year of taxes, arguing that it wouldn't present an accurate picture...but then he made a surprising offer: He would release the past 12 years of tax returns...That way, it wouldn't look like a stunt

    August 12, 2012 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Rationalintn

    According to Andrea Saul–who works for Mitt Romney– if the Soptics had lived in Massachusettes under Governor Romney, they wouldn't have had an issue, because they would've been covered by insurance under Romneycare.

    August 12, 2012 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  4. Russ

    Alls fair in love, war, and politics. And never forget who the master of dirty politics is. The Republicans. The party that brought you Watergate, the stolen 2000 election, and 2004 "Swiftboating" of Kerry. What goes around, comes around. As a loyal Democrat, I am for anything that will prevent the Party of the Dark Side, from winning.

    August 12, 2012 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. Armand Winter

    And Dick Cheney recorded her last gasps as she was in her death throes. He said it was the most fun he'd had since water boarding an Iraqi!

    August 12, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. vicki in alabama

    There is absolutely no dignity or class in the White House anymore. What a shame

    August 12, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Howard

    This ad if intentionally full of misinformation, and outright dishonesty. Unfortuantely, the focus on winning has replaced the really important qualities necessary for a leader ... like trust, honesty, and ethics. Obama and his corrupt stooges are corrupt, self serving low lifes, who are not worthy of holding public office.

    August 12, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. vic , nashville ,tn

    This Ad is carrying true message, this is game referees are voters not the media or Factcheck groups

    August 12, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. tommariner

    This ad was proven to be a lie. The Democratic Campaign employee Stephanie Cutter is on tape planning the lie that Joe Soptic tells, a clear violation of law. Debbie Wasserman Schultz compounded the "misunderstanding" on today's morning talk shows. The fact is that Mr. Soptic's unfortunate wife had her own insurance for years after Mr. Soptic lost his job.

    And yes, it will remain "in the spotlight" as long as folks like CNN keep publishing distractions like this until Americans get fed up and demand news on somebody who can help them solve their economic problems and get back to work.

    August 12, 2012 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Tuba Texas

    Hey, it was the Repuglicans who went to the Supreme Court for the right to have these PACS. There can not be a connection to the campaign. They are independent and as such can do what the hell they wish...on both stop the crying Repugs and let's get on with it!

    August 12, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. SD

    Re Ryan / Romney budget:

    I hope that you didn't require federally subsidized loans to attend college,
    and that your family won't need them, either, and that you have sufficient
    assets to buy private health insurance when you are 80, because under the Ryan
    plan, that's what you'll have to do, and I'm sure it will be really affordable
    individual coverage for old people, and if there is a fire at your house, I hope
    you intend to put it out yourself, and I am guessing you don't use the
    interstate highway system, or fly anywhere, because you couldn't do that without
    the government created by the taxes that we, the people, pay.

    Instead of joining the bandwagon of "personal freedom" versus government,
    perhaps you should make a list of the myriad ways in which you, and the rest of
    society, benefit from the government's role in our lives. You know that little
    thing called the internet, which enabled you to post your views, developed out
    of government supported research. In fact, most of high tech benefited
    enormously from government supported research in silicon valley in the 40s and
    50s, you know, when real patriots were proud to pay taxes, and valued the
    government initiatives that improved all of their, and now our, lives. And I
    hope you never get cancer, because you couldn't possibly accept treatment that
    might have been developed through research funded by the federal government.

    The list goes on. Maybe you should consider living on a deserted island
    somewhere. Lots of personal liberty there.

    August 12, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. MSC545

    The underlying message is clear – Mitt made his obscene amounts of money by preying on others. He is nothing more or less than a psychopath. People like this are a very good reason why capitalism doesn't work.

    August 12, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  13. dualist

    But if Romney looted companies, leaving creditors and workers holding the bag — and I don't necessarily know that he did given the source and timing of this accusation – then he's not such a "good and decent man" is he? That even McCain would believe that such behavior is honorable truly paints the Republicans as morally corrupt. Romney needs to counter with a reasonable and justifiable explanation of his wealth or the he will lose any moral high ground he tries to claim.

    August 12, 2012 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  14. Dave Harris

    Republicans routinely accuse Obama of being a murderer, a traitor, a diabolical schemer plotting to destroy America. Rush Limbaugh, practically the Republican spokesman, says this every day. But when Democrats suggest that Mittens taking away peoples' health insurance might have had some adverse consequences for their health, Republicans suddenly discover "rules" that they accuse the Dems of breaking. It's these kind of schoolyear drama-queen antics that make it hard to take Republicans seriously. They can sure dish it out, but they can't take it, like all bullies.

    August 12, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |