Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson uses military veterans, images of the fallen twin towers and pictures of 9/11 victims to criticize Democratic rival Tammy Baldwin in a new television ad.
The ad opens with a female Air Force veteran stating: "Tammy Baldwin had the opportunity to vote to honor the victims of 9/11 and she voted against it." Images of the battered towers and victims memorial pass by.
Two other veterans chime in with statements including:
"It’s a slap in the face to every one of their families and anyone who has ever served in the United States military. Tammy Baldwin’s extreme far left approach leaves this country in jeopardy."
And this: "It’s a very dangerous path Tammy’s leading us on."
The ad concludes with a veteran stating: "What would you do if these were your children? How would you feel?"
Let’s look at the core claim in this ad: That Baldwin, a U.S. House member from Madison, voted against a tribute to Sept. 11 victims.
The claim stems from a Sept. 14, 2006, vote on a resolution commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Baldwin was one of 22 House members -- 21 Democrats and one Republican -- to vote against the resolution.
Thompson campaign spokeswoman Lisa Boothe said the matter was pretty cut and dried.
"It is simple, she was one of 22 members that voted against it, an incredibly small margin. This was a near unanimous vote."
So there is some truth in Thompson claim.
But that’s far from the entire story.
At the time, Baldwin delivered a speech on the House floor denouncing Republicans for adding language to the routine commemoration that she did not agree with.
According to the Congressional Record, here’s what she said Sept. 13, 2006:
"Mr. Speaker, on the fifth anniversary of the worst attack on American soil, my Republican colleagues have disgracefully politicized what should have been a solemn and sincere resolution.
"This week we are mourning the tragic losses of innocent lives as well as commemorating the unsurpassed heroism that was on display that day.
"We are expressing our gratitude to our nation’s law enforcement officers for their tireless dedication to make our country safer; and we are reaffirming our nation’s resolve to combat terrorism and secure our homeland. But rather than offering a bipartisan resolution that unites us on this solemn occasion, the Republican leadership converted the bill into an endorsement of the Patriot Act, punitive immigration bills, and other highly controversial measures, which many of my constituents oppose.
"This bill was cynically transformed from a memorial resolution to an endorsement of President Bush’s failed policies. The Republicans show enormous disrespect to the 9/11 victims and families by playing election year politics with something as solemn as the fifth anniversary of 9/11; I will vote against the bill."
The publication CQ Weekly, which covers Congress, described the resolution this way in a Sept. 18, 2006 piece:
"But this year’s version was different. Taken up 54 days before one of the most pivotal elections in a decade, the measure afforded Republicans and Democrats a platform from which to argue about which party is more determined to prevail in the war on terror."
The story added: "Republicans stuffed the bill with references to GOP-crafted measures that they say improve national security. Democrats, who voted for some of the bills listed in the resolution, wanted no references to new laws, and complained that framing the resolution that way made it too much of a political document."
Thompson’s ad shows a portion of a Sept. 14, 2006, headline from Baldwin’s hometown Capital Times -- "Baldwin rejects 9-11 tribute" -- but not the entire headline, which read: "Baldwin rejects 9/11 tribute, saying it insults victims, families."
The Baldwin campaign notes that she has voted in favor of a similar resolution honoring 9/11 victims nine times -- in 2001, ‘02, ‘04, ‘05, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09 ‘10 and ‘11.
The campaign also points out that one day before the 2006 vote, Baldwin voted in favor of a resolution calling for "establishing a national memorial at the World Trade Center site to commemorate and mourn the events of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001."
Thompson said his Democratic challenger voted against a resolution honoring 9/11 victims. Technically he’s correct. Baldwin voted against the measure in 2006 -- and criticized Republicans for adding in references to the Patriot Act, immigration bills, and other controversial matters.
But Baldwin has voted nine times in favor of similar resolutions and the day before the vote in question supported creation of a memorial at the World Trade Center site.
Thompson’s statement contains an element of truth, but leaves out critical information that would give a different impression. That’s our definition of Mostly False.
(Editor's note: On Oct. 31, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Daniel Bice reported Baldwin had actually missed one of the nine votes her campaign cited -- a fact the campaign acknowledged, saying she was sick that day. )