Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., one of the most outspoken Democrats in the House, garnered attention -- much of it negative -- for a stinging ad he released on Sept. 25, 2010, labeling his Republican challenger, former state House Speaker Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan" due to his longstanding connection to a conservative Christian group. PolitiFact Florida ruled one part of the ad False and another part Half True. In fact, the national and local attention became so intense that Webster experienced a surge in fundraising among voters who thought that Grayson's attack had gone too far.
On Oct. 6, 2010, the Grayson camp released a new ad that covers much of the same territory, but which eliminates some of the more provocative language and claims from the first ad. (In what may be a sign that the Grayson campaign is distancing itself from the "Taliban Dan" ad, the YouTube link to it has now been made inaccessible to the general public.)
As soon as we heard about the new ad, we knew we had to fact-check it. So we'll analyze several claims from the ad separately.
Here's a full transcript of the new ad:
Daniel Webster's Washington backers are attacking Alan Grayson on women's issues. The facts on Webster's record:
Fact: Webster sponsored a bill to create a form of marriage that would trap women in abusive relationships.
Fact: Webster is an advocate for a group that teaches that mothers should not work outside the home.
Fact: Webster would force victims of rape and incest to bear their attacker's child.
Those are the facts. Don't let Daniel Webster make the laws we will have to live with.
The one we'll check now is the claim that "Webster is an advocate for a group that teaches that mothers should not work outside the home."
As we noted in our fact-check of the earlier "Taliban Dan" ad, the Grayson campaign is referring to a conservative Christian group called the Institute in Basic Life Principles. Webster has been involved with the group for nearly 30 years and continues to participate in training sessions and speak at seminars. In a 2003 interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Webster said he home-schooled his six children using the institute's curricula and said that the group's teachings have had a major influence on his life.
Since that 2003 article, Webster has kept up his ties to the group -- in fact, the allegation from the "Taliban Dan" ad that we rated False stems from an address Webster made to the group in 2009. So we have no quarrel with Grayson's description of Webster as someone who continues to be "an advocate" for the group.
What about the notion that the institute "teaches that mothers should not work outside the home"? We see strong indications that that's the case, but we'll also mention some notable caveats.
As we reported in our earlier analysis, the institute helps teach Christians how to find success by following scriptural principles, and some of its specific teachings are controversial. The institute teaches that married couples are to abstain from sex 40 days after the birth of a son, 80 days after the birth of a daughter and the evening prior to worship, and that people should avoid rock and even contemporary Christian music because it can be addictive.
In web-based instructional materials titled, "How a Wife’s Attitudes Can Preserve Her Marriage: Seven Key Areas of Respect and Submission," the institute writes, "The specific roles of husbands and wives are defined in Scripture: 'Let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband' (Ephesians 5:33). A wife who respects her husband’s leadership and submits to him greatly strengthens the marriage relationship."
Among other things, the institute's materials tell wives, "Do not threaten your husband or make demands," and they warn that "if you lack inward Godliness and outward neatness and modesty, your husband can lose respect for you and be more easily tempted by other women."
We looked through the institute's website and found hints that the group doesn't expect mothers to work outside the home, but we couldn't find an explicit teaching on that point.
For instance, the institute teaches, "Trust God to provide for your family’s financial needs through your husband’s leadership."
It also teaches wives to "maintain personal neatness in your appearance. Wear your clothes and hair in a way that honors your husband’s preferences. As an expression of how important your husband is to you, do your best to look nice when he comes home from work." The implicit assumption in that teaching is that the man will be working outside the home and the woman will be taking care of the children.
And a 1997 St. Petersburg Times profile of Webster quoted the Rev. Tom Brandon, identified as an institute director, saying that it would not be natural for a woman to work outside the home and the man to raise the children. "That puts a wife in a role that she's not equipped for inwardly or outwardly and puts the man in the same position," he said. "A man is the lover and leader. (The wife's) role is to trust God to supply her needs through the leadership of her husband and to serve with him and fulfill his needs."
Brandon's quote gets us closer to confirming Grayson's claim, but it's still focused on the idea of house-husband, which muddies the message a bit.
So while the view that mothers shouldn't work seems consistent with the institute's teachings, we can't find anything in the institute's materials explicitly requiring mothers to forgo work in order to stay home.
But we perceive a more important omission in Grayson's ad -- it ignores substantial evidence that Webster has not adhered to this particular tenet, at least in his official duties.
For starters, he has employed numerous working mothers in his office. A Webster spokeswoman said that he employed at least three as senior aides in the legislature: Ann Drawdy, his chief legislative assistant in the House and Senate; Allison Carter, a policy analyst during his tenure as Senate Majority Leader; and MaryPat Moore, his health care policy director during his tenure as speaker. The spokeswoman added that Webster currently has working mothers on his congressional campaign staff.
In addition, colleagues in both parties have said that Webster has not sought to push his religious beliefs on them. The 2003 Times profile quoted two of them -- former Democratic House Speaker Peter Wallace and state Sen. Nancy Argenziano, a moderate Republican who served with Webster in the House.
"He's a very religious man, but he never imposed that on anybody," Argenziano said. "If he had a personal agenda for his personal beliefs, he never made it the will of he House, so to speak. He was the best speaker I've seen."
So where does this leave us? An institute director and some of the teaching materials give strong hints that mothers are expected to be at home, but we don't find anything explicitly requiring mothers to forgo work in order to stay home. But even if that is the group's belief, Webster has employed several mothers in senior positions, and colleagues have said he didn't push his beliefs in the Legislature. That contradicts the impression given in the ad that Webster is personally opposed to mothers working outside the home. So we rate the ad's claim Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.