Monday, November 24th, 2014

'Taliban Dan': The kinder, gentler sequel

Alan Grayson's new ad, "The Facts," doesn't include references to the Taliban or religious fanaticism.

Now, it's "Taliban Dan,” the sequel.

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, turned heads -- and inspired some outrage -- with a Sept. 25, 2010, ad labeling his Republican challenger, former state House Speaker Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan" due to his longstanding connection to a conservative Christian group.

In the ad, Grayson played clips that showed Webster saying that wives should submit to their husbands. It became a refrain, "Submit to me..."

But unedited footage of the speech showed that Webster was in fact telling husbands to love their wives. The distortion, which earned a False rating from PolitiFact Florida, also got him Webster's tweets of support from Sarah Palin and helped him raise more than $100,000 in 48 hours, according to his campaign. A second PolitiFact fact-check earned Grayson a Half True.

Now, the ad is history. (Literally: It has apparently been taken down from YouTube.) On Oct. 6, 2010, the Grayson campaign released a new ad, called "Dan Webster: The Facts.”

We checked the three claims in the new ad.

We started with the claim that "Webster is an advocate for a group that teaches that mothers should not work outside the home." We found that in a technical sense, this statement is pretty close to accurate. We were unable to find an explicit reference to that view in the group's literature, but we found a couple of passages that suggested that mothers are not expected to work outside the home.

However, the statement ignored the fact that Webster has employed numerous mothers on his own staff, undercutting any notion suggested in the ad that he opposes mothers working outside the home. We rated the statement Barely True.

We also checked the claim that Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships. That claim originates from a bill -- never enacted -- that Webster introduced as a member of the state House in 1990.

The bill would have created a voluntary form of "covenant marriage” that would have stricter rules on when couples could divorce. Reading the bill, we found that the only way out of a marriage under the bill was adultery, so we rated this claim True.

Finally, we reviewed this one: Webster "would force victims of rape and incest to bear their attacker's child." His campaign website says Webster "would support legislation that the Constitutional protections of life and liberty extend to the unborn." We checked with his campaign to confirm whether he is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and a spokeswoman confirmed it.

In his long legislative career, Webster has sponsored, supported or voted for at least a half-dozen bills restricting abortions. Though we find his hard-line philosophy has been tempered by a more pragmatic streak at times, Grayson's charge has a substantial grounding in the truth. We rate this Mostly True.