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An attack ad released on the eve of Georgia’s special House election claims Democrat Jon Ossoff has the support of "unhinged leftists" who celebrated the shooting of Republican lawmakers.
The video, from a group calling itself Principled PAC, opens with the sound of gunfire over footage of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., being wheeled on a stretcher. Scalise was critically wounded in the June 14 attack on a GOP congressional baseball practice that left five others with gunshot wounds and the shooter dead.
"The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans," states the ad, which was viewed more than 86,000 times on YouTube since June 18. "When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday, because the same unhinged leftists cheering last week's shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff."
Republican Karen Handel, Ossoff’s opponent in the June 20 race, condemned the ad. Handel campaign aide Kate Constantini said the group behind the video "should be ashamed," and denounced efforts to use the recent shooting for political gain.
The premise of the ad is alarming and incorrect. We searched for evidence of applause for the shooting and came up empty. There is a further lack of evidence that those cheerleaders are then supporting Ossoff.
Principled PAC did not respond to requests for explanation.
Recent events, partly connected to the Alexandria, Va., ballpark shooting, have set the historically Republican district in northern Atlanta on edge.
On the same day James Hodgkinson attacked GOP congressmen, reports surfaced showing Hodgkinson had previously posted a rant against Karen Handel on Facebook. Hodgkinson had slammed Handel for her opposition to increasing the minimum wage in a profanity-laced tirade he posted a week before the mass shooting.
Handel called for calm and unity in response to those reports.
"We should not allow our political differences to escalate to violent attacks. We must all refuse to allow the politics of our country to be defined in this way," she said in a statement.
The following day, Handel and her neighbors received suspicious packages at their homes containing threatening letters and an unidentified white powder substance.
A letter Handel’s neighbor shared with the media told the recipient to "resist the fascist takeover," and appeared to borrow Marxist language, condemning the "bourgeoisie."
It’s not clear who sent the package, but a neighbor told Fox 5 Atlanta it had a Greenville, S.C., shipping address.
There is no evidence it was mailed by someone who supports Ossoff, or has any connection to the Democratic nominee. If the ad writers had this news in mind, they jumped to a connection that was not based in proof.
The same day Handel received the suspicious package, Ossoff revealed in a statement that he too had received threats against him, and had hired bodyguards for protection.
Meantime, some residents of the district said they’re too scared to put out a yard sign for fear of retribution.
Adding to the toxicity of the election, the most expensive House race in history, the chairman of the Republican Party in the neighboring 11th Congressional District predicted the shooting of GOP lawmakers would hand Republicans a win.
A spokesman for Principled PAC described the shooting as a "political assassination attempt" fueled by rabid talk by the "left" in an email to the Washington Examiner.
"Wednesday's shooting, in stark contrast to a random act of violence, was a political assassination attempt driven by the left's rabid, unhinged rhetoric, so Americans should take a hard look at the ramifications of politically motivated violence," Noel Fritsch told the Examiner.
Principled PAC said, "The same unhinged leftists cheering last week's shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff."
For any statement we fact-check, the speaker carries the burden of proof. Principled PAC did not respond to multiple requests seeking information to support its incendiary claim linking Ossoff to a celebration of violence against Republicans.
We were unable to find a single example of someone cheering the recent shooting of Republican lawmakers and voicing support for Ossoff.
We rate Principled PAC’s statement Pants on Fire!
Principled PAC ad, "Stop the Violent Left," June 18, 2017
Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Congressional shooting clouds final days of Georgia special election," June 19, 2017
New York Times, "How We Became Bitter Political Enemies," June 15, 2017
PolitiFact, "In GA-6 race, fact-checking attacks about campaign cash," June 8, 2016
NBC affiliate WXIA, "Congressional baseball shooter penned Facebook rant against Karen Handel," June 14, 2017
Associated Press, "Would-be gunman launched into Trump tirade before shooting," June 17, 2017
USA Today, "Alleged gunman James Hodgkinson volunteered on Bernie Sanders' campaign," June 14, 2017
Fox 5 Atlanta, "Karen Handel's home target of suspicious package," June 15, 2017
Daily Mail, "Georgia Republican congressional candidate is sent white powder with a note saying 'resist the fascist takeover' through the mail," June 16, 2017
Patch.com, "Jon Ossoff: I Have Received 'A Number Of Threats,'" June 16, 2017
PunditFact, "No evidence Sarah Palin’s PAC incited shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords," June 15, 2017
Washington Examiner, "GOP group not backing down from TV ad tying Ossoff to baseball shooting," June 19, 2017
Email interview with Kate Constantini, Karen Handel campaign aide, June 19
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