Dave Brat recently brought some right-wing firepower to his campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor in the 7th District Republican primary on Tuesday.
Laura Ingraham, a conservative radio talk show host, headlined a June 3 rally for Brat at Henrico County’s Dominion Club and quickly brought up immigration.
She noted that Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., held a May 28 rally in Richmond and urged Cantor to allow the House to vote on immigration reforms. Cantor, the House majority leader, has blocked votes on a comprehensive immigration bill and an amendment to the defense authorization bill that would allow children of illegal immigrants to join the military and receive legal status once they’ve served.
Cantor has signaled, however, that he might support a narrowly drawn bill establishing a path to citizenship for children who were brought into the country illegally by their parents. That’s spurred Brat to label Cantor weak on immigration and claim the majority leader is quietly working on a deal with Gutierrez to pass reforms. Brat said Gutierrez’s appearance in Virginia was designed to bolster Cantor’s credentials as tough on immigration prior to the GOP primary.
Ingraham picked up that note, saying the immigration rally was "beautifully choreographed." She likened Cantor and Gutierrez to a touring "Simon and Garfunkel in the 70s."
Ingraham said of the two politicians, "They’re touring the country last year talking ‘How to Make Life Work’ -- some ridiculous, meaningless titled tour -- joined at the hip, working together, in a bipartisan fashion indeed for the goal of immigration reform."
The Cantor-Gutierrez national immigration tour was news to us. So we looked into Ingraham’s claim.
Julia Hahn, Ingraham’s executive producer, said the radio personality was referring to a widely publicized "Becoming America Pilgrimage" held July 25-27, 2013. The event, organized by the non-profit Institute for Faith & Politics, took lawmakers to Ellis Island, the Museum of Jewish Heritage and other sites around New York City.
A delegation of about 100 people, including House members, academics and faith leaders, traveled from Washington for the event.
An article in Politico previewing the New York event said it wasn’t "meant to hash out the nitty-gritty of legislation or debate the politics of specific immigration policies. But lawmakers hope it will be small step forward in Congress’s effort to enact immigration reform."
Gutierrez and Cantor attended parts of the three-day event.
Cantor spoke at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights in Queens about the "special struggles that Jewish people had arriving in a country that often did not understand or welcome people of his faith and culture," according to a synopsis of his speech by the Faith & Politics Institute.
Hahn pointed to a video of part of Cantor’s address on the conservative Breitbart.com website. It shows Cantor acknowledging Gutierrez in the audience and saying, "Luis, thank you for the leadership you’re providing through thick and thin right now as we try and navigate these very tough political times and choppy waters. My hat is off to you."
Ray Allen Jr., a Cantor political adviser, said the majority leader’s recognition of Gutierrez was a simple courtesy.
Allen was dismissive of Ingraham’s remarks.
"No, Congressman Cantor did not tour the country with Congressman Gutierrez," Allen emailed. "No, they had no meetings on immigration and no, they never talked prior to Mr. Gutierrez coming to Richmond to attack Eric Cantor for stopping the Senate’s comprehensive immigration plan. And yes, despite what the Left says, we believe it is an amnesty plan."
Douglas Rivlin, a spokesman for Gutierrez, said while the Illinois congressman sat in on Cantor’s speech in New York, Gutierrez only attended about 12 hours of the three-day immigration pilgrimage.
Rivlin also said his office checked the congressman’s schedule and found Gutierrez "has never once had a meeting with Majority Leader Eric Cantor on any issue, including immigration."
Rivlin also said that beyond the "Becoming America Pilgrimage," he’s not aware of any other immigration-related events that Gutierrez and Cantor both attended.
We asked Ingraham’s executive producer if, beyond the New York event, she could name other immigration functions Cantor and Gutierrez attended. She came up empty.
Ingraham said Cantor and Gutierrez were "touring the country last year … joined at the hip, working together in a bipartisan fashion indeed for the goal of immigration reform."
Cantor and Gutierrez were among 100 leaders who attended a pilgrimage to the New York City area last July that focused on immigration issues. Aides say that’s the only immigration event Cantor and Gutierrez both happened to attend and that the two lawmakers have never met to discuss immigration.
One event in New York does not make a national tour. Ingraham can’t point to another immigration gig Cantor and Gutierrez both attended. Her likening the two politicians to Simon and Garfunkel "joined at the hip" on a tour to promote immigration reform is not only false, it’s ridiculous.
We rate Ingraham’s statement Pants on Fire.