"Taliban Dan" Ad Spurs Debate Over Dan Webster
Florida Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson caused a political firestorm this week by releasing an ad in which he dubs his Republican challenger, Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan."
Some commentators decried the ad, and Webster's wife, Sandy Webster, released a statement in response Monday afternoon. "Mr. Grayson should be ashamed of his nasty smears against my husband," she said. The statement from Sandy Webster and Webster's campaign manager, as Politico notes, decried the ad but did not dispute any of the charges leveled against Webster in the ad.
The ad makes strong, controversial claims about Webster's record on women's issues. Today, a controversy raged over a specific aspect of the ad: An out-of-context clip of remarks by Webster.
The ad features a short clip of Webster saying, "Wives, submit yourself to your own husband." It also repeatedly shows Webster saying, "She should submit to me." The clips were taken from a speech Webster gave at a conference of the nonprofit Christian group the Institute for Basic Life Principles.
The nonpartisan organization Factcheck.org ripped into Grayson's ad, saying Grayson "lowers the bar" by "using edited video to make his rival appear to be saying the opposite of what he really said."
The Institute of Basic Life Principles provided FactCheck.org with a video (watch it below) showing the section of Webster's speech from which the clip was pulled. Webster says:
So, write a journal. Second, find a verse. I have a verse for my wife, I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, 'She should submit to me.' That's in the Bible, but pick the ones that you're supposed to do. So instead, 'love your wife, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it' as opposed to 'wives submit to your own husbands.' She can pray that, if she wants to, but don't you pray it.
"Webster's positions on abortion and marriage, and his religious views, are certainly fair game," Factcheck.org concludes. "But Grayson crosses the line when he uses manipulated video to cast Webster's views in a false light."
The Orlando Sentinel had a similar take, reporting, "Webster actually was advising husbands to bypass those particular Bible passages, according a longer video clip released Monday."
"Here he goes again," Brian Graham, Webster's campaign manager, told the Sentinel. "Time and time again, Alan Grayson has shown that he cannot be truthful. The people of Central Florida are smarter than this."
In response to the release of the longer video clip, both liberal and conservative commentators decried the Grayson ad.
Ed Morrissey at the conservative blog HotAir.com called the ad "Utterly disgraceful," while progressive blogger Adam Serwer wrote at the Washington Post, "Webster is being smeared, Shirley Sherrod style." (Serwer later went on to explore the issue further here.)
However, upon closer look at the video, liberals came back with the charge that Factcheck.org and the Orlando Sentinel misinterpreted Webster's remarks.
"Webster never spoke out against the notion that wives should submit to their husbands -- in fact, he embraced it," Jed Lewison writes at Daily Kos. "The only thing he spoke out against is that men should pray to biblical verses about their own responsibilities -- not those of their wives or children."
Jewison urges readers to "help Grayson keep this ad on the air" with a $5 or $10 donation.
Sarah Posner at the liberal online magazine Religion Dispatches writes that Factcheck.org "failed to grasp what was crucial about this story."
She refers to remarks from Religion Dispatches contributor Kathryn Joyce, who writes, "While the Grayson campaign can be taken to task for taking Webster's comment out of context, in the larger context, they're correct."
While Grayson may be receiving criticism from both the left and the right for his controversial ad, the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim points out that it has been effective in bringing attention to Webster's very conservative views.
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