From immigration to Iraq, Robinson ads prove false
There’s been no shortage of heat in this year’s race to represent North Carolina’s 13th congressional district. But challenger Vernon Robinson’s fiery rhetoric has shed little light on two-term incumbent Brad Miller’s voting record, according to an analysis of recent advertisements by Factcheck.org, a website devoted to researching the veracity of campaign ads.
Robinson unleashed his latest television salvo “XXX” on Sept. 25. The ad starts with a question: “What kind of Congressman would try to deny our soldiers the body armor they need to save their lives?”
The answer, according the commercial, is Brad Miller. And what’s worse is that Miller would rather spend federal money on kinky sex studies, like one directed at Vietnamese sex workers in San Francisco or another concerning the masturbation habits of old men, Robinson says. Near the end of the minute-long spot, the announcer smugly delivers his thesis.
“Brad Miller pays for sex, but not for body armor for our troops,” he says.
It is a premise that is top-to-bottom false according to Factcheck.org, a division of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The ad is not playing on any stations in the 13th, nor is it available on Robinson’s campaign website. There is some argument over whether it aired at all, although Miller’s spokeswoman LuAnn Canipe said at least one person reported seeing it. Robinson wrote in an e-mail that someone leaked the commercial onto YouTube before it was finished.
“I ran $220,000 worth of cable ads and they were the immigration spot that is on [my] site,” Robinson wrote in an e-mail to YES! Weekly. “If we were running the ad, you would have seen it everywhere on cable.”
Miller missed a vote in October 2003 on $87 billion in supplemental military appropriations that included $300 million for body armor. What Robinson’s ad left out is that Miller was on his way to Iraq to visit the troops personally. The congressman never cast a vote to deny the troops anything. Robinson stands by the claim that Miller is unsupportive of the troops and weak on national defense.
“With regard to the body armor vote we believe it is fair game because Brad [Miller] has consistently voted to oppose the troops,” Robinson wrote. “He serves on no committee relevant to Iraq that would cause him to miss votes. Congress is out of session six months to take trips and meet with constituents. When it is in session you are supposed to be voting.”
The sex-study allegation stems from a vote earlier that year, when Miller voted against a Republican-backed amendment that would have forced the National Institutes of Health to cancel five specific research grants. Among those are the four to which Robinson refers.
He characterizes the first as a study concerning the sex lives of Vietnamese prostitutes in San Francisco. Documentation from the National Institutes of Health revealed that the study proposed investigating risk factors among Vietnamese prostitutes that might help prevent the spread of AIDS.
The grant Robinson described as studying the masturbation habits of old men in fact covered the broader topic of how declining sexual function affected quality of life for senior citizens.
“Brad Miller spent your tax dollars to study something called the bisexual transgendered and two-spirited Aleutian Eskimos, whoever they are,” the announcer says.
An abstract from the grant describes an in-depth investigation into the health habits of gay, lesbian and bisexual American Indians, a high-risk subgroup that has rarely been studied.
For his final accusation, Robinson claimed that one of the contested grants involved affixing probes to the genitalia of teenage girls to study arousal. The actual abstract clearly limits test subjects to adult women.
Miller’s response to Robinson is a 30-second image ad that hammers home his allegiance to core Democratic values. He’s depicted as a hard worker who supports family-friendly legislation.
Miller’s major claims check out. He led the fight in Congress against predatory lending, teaming up with fellow NC Congressman Mel Watt in 2005 to introduce federal legislation modeled on North Carolina’s successful subprime lending initiatives.
Miller later asserts his support for community colleges. The facts again back up the congressman; he initiated the first House Community College Caucus, which he unveiled earlier this year.
Miller’s final claim – that he is working to bring good paying jobs to North Carolina – is more difficult to prove. He holds posts on the science and financial services committees and advocates for more worker training, and Canipe said he has championed appropriations to expand the airport in Rockingham County, which brought immediate jobs and the hope of economic expansion driven by infrastructure improvements.
Robinson has positioned himself as tough on illegal immigrants from the outset of his campaign, but his depiction of Miller as soft on illegal immigration is, as of last month, inaccurate. Miller voted in favor of legislation authorizing the construction of a 700-mile fence along the US-Mexico border and for a bill strengthening immigration law enforcement in September 2006. That’s a reversal from 2005, when Miller voted against two enforcement-first immigration bills: the Border Security Bill in December 2005 and the Real ID Act that would have standardized documentation requirements for state driver’s licenses. He also voted against a bill in 2004 that would require emergency medical workers to report illegal immigrants.
The candidates’ clashing campaign styles will go head-to-head at least three times before November’s general election. Robinson and Miller agreed to meet in televised debates on WXII on Tuesday, and on WRAL and WTVD on Friday. Canipe said the Miller campaign has no plans to address Robinson’s claims before then.
“Currently the plan is to keep doing what we have been doing in terms of responding,” Canipe said. “The congressman sort of feels like people are figuring out the Robinson ads on their own.”
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