Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Did Harry Reid support Viagra for sex offenders?

In a new ad, Sharron Angle says Sen. Harry Reid supported Viagra coverage for convicted sex offenders.

As the 2010 campaign season slouches toward Election Day, the attack ads are coming fast and furious. We recently took a look at three attack ads in high-profile Senate races and found a little truth and a lot of stretching the truth.

In the knock-down, drag-out battle for a U.S. Senate seat from Nevada, Republican Sharron Angle lobbed an attack at Democratic incumbent Harry Reid that involved Viagra and sex offenders.

In the ad, the the narrator says, "Here's the kicker: Reid actually voted to use taxpayer dollars to pay for Viagra for convicted child molesters and sex offenders. What else could you ever need to know about Harry Reid?"

We concluded that the ad is correct that Reid voted against a prohibition on taxpayer-subsidized Viagra for sex offenders. But the ad leaves out a lot of important context that, if it had been included, would have given a different impression. We rated the ad Barely True.

In the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Jack Conway used an ad to attack Republican Rand Paul on Medicare policy, saying he wants to impose a $2,000 deductible for the universal health program for seniors. The ad uses grainy footage of Paul giving a talk to the Center-Right Coalition, a conservative group, in Lexington, Ky., on June 19, 2009.

We checked to see whether the Conway campaign took Paul's statement out of context. After reviewing a longer portion of the footage and watching a handful of other taped appearances by Paul, we concluded that for the most part the ad was fair. Its main problem was reducing Paul's broad, comprehensive overhaul for Medicare to just one of its provisions, the $2,000 deductible. Still, we saw that as a relatively minor exaggeration, and on balance we rated the ad Mostly True.

Finally, we looked at a Spanish language ad in the California Senate race placed by the Susan B. Anthony List, a Republican group that opposes abortion, and also by the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes gay marriage. The ad attacks Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on immigration, saying she "voted against immigration reform to permit our people to come here legally to work." This surprised us because Boxer has generally been an advocate for more liberal immigration laws.

Asked for backup for the ad's claim, a spokesman for SBA List pointed us to a May 23, 2007, story in the New York Times that noted Boxer's opposition to a "guest worker" provision proposed for the comprehensive immigration reform initiative that year. But many immigration advocates feared it would create an environment where employers could abuse guest workers, because they could control whether that guest worker could return. On those grounds, Boxer voted to eliminate it.

The ad doesn't explain this context. It merely says Boxer "voted against immigration reform to permit our people to come here legally to work." We concluded that the ad's claim about Boxer's record on immigration was highly misleading, and we rated it False.