From The Seattle Times:
RALEIGH, N.C. — Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who speaks often about prayer and faith, is gambling her re-election bid by raising religion in the campaign’s final days.
In a television ad this week, the North Carolina Republican questioned the Christian credentials of Democratic challenger Kay Hagan. The state senator responded angrily, filing a lawsuit Thursday and airing an ad that says Dole is breaking the Bible’s Ninth Commandment by bearing false witness.
The two candidates are locked in one of the nation’s closest Senate races. Recent polls indicate that Hagan has a slight edge. The pair has spent months swapping negative ads, but even some Republicans think Dole’s assertions about Hagan and her faith have gone too far.
Dole’s 30-second ad shows clips of some members of an atheist advocacy group — the Godless Americans Political Action Committee — talking about their goals, such as taking “under God” out of the Pledge of Allegiance and removing “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency. It questions why Hagan went to a fundraiser at the home of a man who serves as an adviser to the group.
“Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?” the narrator says.
The ad ends with a picture of Hagan while another woman declares in the background, “There is no God!”
Hagan is a Presbyterian church elder who teaches Sunday school. On Wednesday, her attorneys demanded the ad come down within 24 hours. On Thursday, Hagan’s attorneys filed a lawsuit accusing Dole of defamation and libel.
Dan McLagan, a Dole spokesman, said the campaign had no plans to pull the ad and dismissed the lawsuit as a “silly political gimmick.”
The editorial board of The Charlotte Observer, the state’s largest newspaper, compared Dole’s ad to an infamous spot run in 1990 by [Dole’s predecessor Jesse] Helms against challenger Harvey Gantt, who is black. That ad showed a pair of white hands crumpling a rejection letter, while a narrator slammed “racial quotas.”
From The News & Observer (Editorial):
State Sen. Kay Hagan, who’s giving Elizabeth Dole the run of her life for her seat in the U.S. Senate, might well ask the following question of a Dole advertisement that could be the sleaziest of the entire campaign: Did the devil make her do it?
The ad features lighting right out of a Halloween show, with shadowy pictures of Hagan and ominous narration about Hagan’s attendance at a September fundraiser in Boston hosted by former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and others seeking to boost Democrats for the U.S. Senate.
The fundraiser was held at the home of a couple involved in a group that is trying to take references to God out of government venues.
But there’s no indication whatsoever that the fundraiser had anything to do with that group or its agenda.
Should Hagan have attended, given that Dole’s campaign already had criticized, before the event, the host’s link to the atheist group? Politically, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But that was a failing of staff preparation. Hagan was then in the midst of a frenetic campaign, and says she didn’t know anything about the connections of people who were involved in the fundraiser with the controversial group. And the headlining of John Kerry, a former ambassador and a number of other people of course gave the event credibility.
But even acknowledging that Hagan’s campaign should have known better, it’s hard not to rate Dole’s advertisement attacking Hagan as the lowest of the low in this election season.
Dole clearly is desperate to hold on to her seat for herself and the Republicans, and Hagan has been tough on Dole for what the challenger says are rare appearances in North Carolina and steady support for the unpopular Bush administration. This ad is the most telling sign yet of just how stressed Dole is, but it may well leave a permanent stain on a long government career. Appearing to question someone’s faith, particularly when the question clearly isn’t applicable in Hagan’s case, is beneath a person of Elizabeth Dole’s stature and reputation.
From Indy Week:
This week, Republican U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole began running a statewide 30-second TV ad linking her opponent, Kay Hagan, to a political action committee that supports equal rights for atheists and the separation of church and state.
While the Dole campaign produced the 30-second spot, the National Republican Senatorial Committee created a longer version, which runs almost three minutes and can be seen on YouTube.
Hagan did attend a Sept. 15 political fundraiser in Boston hosted by Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry and about three dozen others. It was held at the home of Woody Kaplan, a former shopping-center developer and Godless Americans PAC advisory board member. The event was not sponsored by the PAC, nor was it secret.
Both ads feature shadowy photographs of Hagan standing next to a nameless gray-haired man—presumably one of those atheists to whom the Democrat is allegedly indebted. He is, in fact, Charles Frederick (Rick) Stone III, who currently studies theology at the Harvard Divinity School. Until his 2007 move to Boston, Stone lived in Greensboro and taught Biblical studies at Greensboro College, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, and Guilford College, which draws on Quaker tradition.
His courses have included Old and New Testament, religious law, and the teachings of Jesus. Stone himself is Episcopalian and a believer in God.
Stone met Hagan in the late 1990s, when he taught Sunday school at Greensboro’s First Presbyterian Church. Hagan is an elder at First Presbyterian, and her family has attended for more than 100 years.
When Stone learned that Hagan would be attending a fundraiser in his new hometown, he and his wife decided to join her. Would it be safe to assume that this was not billed as a political event for atheists? “That would be an inference I think you could make, given the fact that she attended and I attended,” he says.
The Charlotte Observer called the ad “indecent,” comparing it to the doctored photo of UNC President Frank Porter Graham’s wife dancing with an African-American man during the 1950 Senate race. “It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either.”