California congressional race heats up

Turn Right USA video attacking Janice Hahn

Two political ads in a congressional race that pits Democratic Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn against Republican business consultant and political commentator Craig Huey have grabbed national attention, but for different reasons.

This week, we fact-checked what has been called one of the most offensive political videos ever. It has been denounced as vile, racist and sexist. So, naturally, it went viral on YouTube.

The ad, from a conservative political action committee that claims to have no ties to the Huey campaign, Turn Right USA, attacks Hahn for her support of gang-intervention programs that use former gang members.

The video features a woman dancing on a stripper pole as two rappers hold guns and grab money out of her very short shorts. When the woman turns around, there's a demonic version of Hahn's face superimposed.

Putting aside the offensive images in the video, we wondered about the claim at the heart of the attack: "In an insane effort to reduce gang violence, Janice Hahn hired hardcore gang members with taxpayer money to be 'gang-intervention specialists.' She even helped them get out of jail, so they could rape and kill again."

We found ample evidence that Hahn has been an advocate of programs that use ex-gang members as intervention specialists. And while the city does not fund these intervention specialists directly, it funds agencies that do. Still, it's a stretch to say "Janice Hahn hired hard-core gang members with taxpayer money to be 'gang-intervention specialists.'" That suggests she selected the ex-gang members tapped to be intervention specialists or that she paid them herself, and there's no evidence of that.

We also found it was a stretch to accuse Hahn of getting gangsters out of jail based solely on the comments of one gang member facing serious criminal charges. Hahn acknowledged she made a call to to find out the basis for the man's arrest. But other than the man's hearsay declaration, the video and its producer present no proof that Hahn got him or anyone else out of jail.  We rated the claim False.

Earlier in June, we looked into a campaign video from the Hahn campaign which was remarkable not so much for its attacks on Huey -- it's fairly standard abortion and the-Republicans-want-to-end-Medicare fare -- but rather for its efforts to tie Huey's positions to that of former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

"Sarah Palin and Craig Huey. Which would ban a woman's right to choose in every case? Both Palin and Huey," the narrator begins.

"Which supports a radical plan to end Medicare, but wants to give tax breaks to the wealthy? Palin and Huey again."

"But which one called Planned Parenthood a 'murder mill'? Only Craig Huey. We don't need Craig Huey's extremist right wing agenda."

We checked into two of the ad's claims. First, we looked into whether both Palin and Huey "would ban a woman's right to choose in every case."

Palin's position has been that she would outlaw abortion unless the life of the woman is in danger. Huey's campaign spokesman said Huey also opposes abortion, but that he "understands that the Supreme Court has ruled on this issue and that Congress cannot change that and cannot ban abortions." So, he argued, it's wrong to say Huey "would ban" abortions. But we think it's fair game to say what your opponent "would" do if he could. However, we think the word "ban" is too sweeping, since Palin, at least, makes an exception for the life of the mother.  We rated the claim Half True.

We also looked into the ad's claim that Huey called Planned Parenthood a "murder mill."

That's a phrase that was used on an election blog maintained by Huey. Huey's campaign spokesman said it appeared a staffer for Huey actually wrote the post, but because it was posted on his blog, "he's standing by it."  We ruled the ad's claim True.

Hahn and Huey will face off in a July 12 special election to replace former Democratic Rep. Jane Harman, who retired in February.