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By Bill Wichert May 14, 2012

Steve Rothman’s campaign edits attack ad to suggest Bill Pascrell admitted supporting tax cuts for the rich

The latest attack ad from U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman has all the makings of a well-crafted, political hit.

There’s the snarky narrator, a tuxedoed man winking at the camera -- and, of course, some editing to make Rothman’s opponent sound like he’s saying something that he’s not.

About a month before the two Democratic congressmen face off in the June 5 primary for a newly drawn congressional district, Rothman’s campaign on May 8 posted an ad on YouTube claiming that U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell "wants more tax cuts for the rich."

The ad goes one step further, suggesting that Pascrell admitted to supporting such tax cuts. Just after the narrator claims the congressman "wants more tax cuts for the rich," the video cuts to a clip of Pascrell saying, "Republicans had great ideas. I liked some of their ideas."

But PolitiFact New Jersey found that Pascrell’s comments were in reference to reaching a bipartisan compromise on health care reform, not about providing tax cuts.

Let’s go through the ad.

The ad opens with a video of Rothman saying, "I’m Steve Rothman and I approved this message." Then we see archival footage of what appears to be wealthy people in tuxedos and cocktail dresses at a party.

"Who wants more tax cuts for the rich?" the narrator intones. "Mitt Romney, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich and Bill Pascrell." A photo of each man is superimposed on the screen as the narrator says their names.

The ad immediately turns to a video of Pascrell talking.

In a clip from an interview on MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews," Pascrell says, "Republicans had great ideas. I liked some of their ideas." The ad abruptly turns to the winking, tuxedoed man as the narrator adds: "Especially if you’re wealthy."

The three-second clip featured in Rothman’s ad was pulled from a nearly eight-minute "Hardball" interview from Jan. 25, 2010. During that segment, Pascrell was discussing health care reform, not tax cuts.

In response to Matthews’ question about reaching a bipartisan deal on health care reform, here is Pascrell’s complete answer:

"I really believe that it can happen. And I believe that the president should try again to reach out to the other side. I know he tried to do (it) in the beginning. Mr. Boehner, who’s the leader (of the) Republicans in the House, he chose the path of saying, ‘Nah, our party’s not gonna support any of this.’ And it really puts the pressure on anybody on the other side who wants to think of some good (ideas). Republicans had great ideas. We had some bipartisan meetings...I liked some of their ideas, and they liked some of our ideas."

To read a transcript of the entire interview or watch it, go here.

So, Rothman is clearly wrong to suggest Pascrell was endorsing "more tax cuts for the rich," when his statement was about Republicans’ ideas for health care reform.

Paul Swibinski, a senior adviser to the Rothman campaign, acknowledged in an e-mail that the clip was about health care, but argued it reinforces how "Bill Pascrell has often caved in to Republicans and negotiated away what progressives stand for."

Pascrell spokesman Sean Darcy responded in an e-mail: "Steve Rothman's claims to being a progressive fighter fly in the face of the facts and his constant negative attacks against Bill Pascrell have been consistently, directly contradicted by independent verifiers."

Our ruling

In an attack ad from Rothman’s campaign, the narrator claims Pascrell "wants more tax cuts for the rich." Then the video suggests Pascrell admitted to supporting such tax cuts by showing a clip of him saying, "Republicans had great ideas. I liked some of their ideas."

But when Pascrell made those comments during a "Hardball" interview, the congressman was discussing efforts to reach a bipartisan compromise on health care reform. In fact, the phrase "tax cuts" was never mentioned during the entire interview.

Editing a political ad to distort the meaning behind an opponent’s comments is not just wrong, it’s ridiculous. Pants on Fire!

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Our Sources

Great Ideas, a video posted on YouTube by Congressman Steve Rothman’s campaign, May 8, 2012

PolitiFact New Jersey, Steve Rothman claims Bill Pascrell "voted to remove" the public option from the national health care reform law, March 28, 2012

Rep. Pascrell talks Health Care with Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball, Jan. 25, 2010

Transcript of Hardball with Chris Matthews, Jan. 25, 2010

E-mail interview with Paul Swibinski, a senior advisor to Congressman Steve Rothman’s campaign, May 10, 2012

E-mail interview with Sean Darcy, spokesman for Congressman Bill Pascrell’s campaign, May 10, 2012

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Steve Rothman’s campaign edits attack ad to suggest Bill Pascrell admitted supporting tax cuts for the rich

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