Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West of South Florida says his opponent, Democrat Patrick Murphy, has criticized West’s military career to cover-up his own brawl with the law -- literally, a brawl with a police officer.
In the ad, called "Ashamed," the narrator says: "First, Patrick Murphy called a man who has fought to defend our country a coward. Then Murphy hid behind his father in attacks that were called racist and disgusting."
The ad then airs TV media quotes stating that the attacks on West were a ‘low blow,’ ‘disgusting’ and displayed ‘racial stereotypes.’
The ad then shows photos of West in his Army fatigues with fellow soldiers.
"Now Murphy is questioning the actions of a soldier in combat fighting to protect his men. Why? To hide his drunken assault of a police officer."
The ad shows a copy of a 2003 police report and a dour mug shot of Murphy.
Here we will fact-check whether Murphy engaged in a "drunken assault of a police officer." We will also explain if he tried to "hide" that incident and briefly touch on some of the other claims in the ad.
Murphy’s 2003 arrest
West’s campaign sent us a copy of the police report of the Feb. 16, 2003, incident. At the time, Murphy was a 19-year-old college freshman at the University of Miami.
The narrative in the hand-written police report is somewhat difficult to decipher, but it says that Murphy and a friend were fighting and disrupting others at a Miami Beach bar, Club Crobar, and escorted out by security. The two men had been drinking, were "soaking wet" from alcohol and had "eyes bloodshot, slurring speech."
An officer asked Murphy for his I.D., but Murphy refused to turn over the fake New Jersey driver’s license. The report noted that "defendant continued to act disorderly" and wasn’t listening to the officer’s directions to step away and calm down.
"Defendant refused shouting ‘(expletive) you,’’’ and was arrested, the report stated. Murphy then made "false allegations" that he was mistreated, the officer wrote.
To be clear, we saw no evidence in the officer’s narrative or court records that Murphy physically assaulted a police officer.
Court case dropped
The criminal case was filed on Feb. 17, 2003 -- one day after the incident, online Miami-Dade court records show. Murphy was charged with felony possession of a stolen driver’s license. He entered a plea of "not guilty" Feb. 26, and the criminal case was closed March 10 with a charge transferred to traffic court.
Court records also list "misdemeanor disorderly intoxication" based on the arrest report, but court records show "no action" on this count and he wasn’t charged for that by prosecutors.
The charge transferred to traffic court for altering a driver’s license was dismissed by the state attorney’s office in June 2003. The online record doesn’t explain the reason for the dismissal.
Did Murphy ‘hide’ his assault
Murphy was clearly arrested but not convicted of the driver’s license charge. And prosecutors never charged him with assault. But did he try to "hide" it?
Murphy campaign consultant Eric Johnson said Murphy didn’t try to get the record expunged and has discussed it with reporters for several months.
The Palm Beach Post wrote in June that it found the arrest in state records and asked Murphy about it.
"I was a teenager and I got in trouble with a fake I.D.,and I was under-age drinking and, look, biggest learning experience of my life, never had a run-in with the police since. I'm sorry it ever happened. ... It's nothing I can hide from," Murphy told the Post.
We asked West campaign manager Tim Edson if West had any proof that the assault was physical or that Murphy tried to hide it.
"Our campaign never said there was a physical assault. Call it what you will, but Patrick Murphy’s campaign was trying to distract from, hide or obscure his drunken verbal assault on a police officer with a false attack ad on Allen West’s military record...," Edson responded in an email. "It is clear that Murphy verbally assaulted a police officer."
The other claims in the ad
There are some other interesting claims in the ad that we are not going to factor into our ruling but we will provide a little background:
• West said that Murphy "called a man who has fought to defend our country a coward." Murphy called West a "coward" for switching districts after redistricting made his current district more liberal.
"Allen West went from talking tough this weekend and telling progressives to ‘get the hell out of this country’ to abandoning the people who elected him. There is no other way to interpret this: Allen West is a coward," a Murphy press release stated in January 2012.
• "Murphy hid behind his father in attacks that were called racist and disgusting." Murphy’s dad formed a political action committee,which aired an ad depicting a caricature of West, a black congressman, in boxing gloves punching an old white woman, a younger white woman and grabbing money from a black family. The ad was intended to depict West socking it to constituents over Medicare, health care and tax cuts. West and his supporters argued the ad was racist, but the NAACP disagreed. (A Palm Beach Post editorial said the ad wasn’t racist but criticized Murphy for saying he had nothing to do with an ad created by his father.)
West’s ad says that opponent Murphy is trying to hide his "drunken assault of a police officer." Murphy was arrested for disorderly intoxication and possession of a stolen driver’s license.
But West omits several facts about the incident. Most importantly, we saw no evidence in the officer’s narrative or court records that Murphy physically assaulted a police officer. A viewer hearing that phrase could easily misinterpret it to mean a physical assault.
Murphy wasn’t convicted -- a charge was quickly transferred to traffic court and dismissed within months. It’s also worth noting that this was almost a decade ago,when Murphy was 19.
We found no proof that Murphy has tried to "hide" his arrest. Sure, he’s not highlighting it, but he has answered reporters’ questions about it for months.
There is some truth here: Murphy was arrested while drunk and disrespected a police officer. But saying that he was hiding a drunken assault of a police officer is significantly overstating it.
We rate this claim Mostly False.