TV stations in North Carolina pulled an ad by the campaign arm for Senate Republicans after they were informed it had a false statement and language about North Carolina Democratic candidate Cheri Beasley and her record as a former state Supreme Court chief justice.
The ad, titled "Failed Our Children," ties Beasley to three child predators who were released or had their indictments tossed. They say in one case, which involved a man convicted on 12 counts of child pornography, that Beasley had voted to set him free.
Beasley and the court heard a case on whether police could search a USB drive belonging to the man charged in the case, James Howard Terrell Jr., without a warrant. She and a majority of the court upheld a lower court's assessment that the search had not been permissible under the "private-search doctrine" and sent the matter back to the lower court, but did not directly vote to set Terrell Jr. free.
Democratic lawyers wrote to the TV stations to inform them that Terrell Jr. had remained incarcerated and was not freed by Beasley's decision.
"The defendant was not set free by the ruling as the ad claims. CMG will not run the ad when it contains a false statement on material issue. This ad has been removed from airing," wrote a representative for WSOC-TV and WAXN-TV in Charlotte, N.C., in a letter first obtained by CBS News.
In a response to the TV stations, the NRSC backed up its claim in the ad with a Washington Free Beacon story that said Beasley and the Democratic majority on North Carolina's Supreme Court "let a child porn offender go free on a technicality." The stations responded and said they were reviewing the NRSC's additional documents.
Chris Hartline, NRSC spokesman said in a statement, "Every word of the ad is true. No one knows that more than the families of victims of violent criminals that Cheri Beasley has let off. This bizarre statement from a TV station that had yet to receive or even ask for our substantiation for the claim will be noted by our media buyers as they make future decisions about ad buys."
There was a court-ordered release for Terrell Jr. on December 23, 2021, according to a database of public offender information by North Carolina's Department of Public Safety. It is unclear how or if the state Supreme Court's decision played a role in his release.
Another ad by the NRSC attacks Beasley over other cases of violent crime and portrays her as failing to protect them. That ad has been fact checked by CBS17, which similarly found the ads lacked context — that the state Supreme Court had voted unanimously to vacate a death sentence. This ad remains on the air.
"Washington Republicans have been caught lying about Cheri Beasley's record and their false attack was rightfully taken off television," wrote Beasley campaign spokesperson Dory MacMillan. "Voters know Cheri worked with law enforcement to hold violent offenders accountable."
The ads echo a similar approach by Senate Republicans against U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearing. Sen. Josh Hawley, of Missouri,went after Jackson on seven child pornography cases she oversaw in which she imposed sentences that were shorter than federal guidelines recommended and prosecutors sought. Fact checks have found that his claims lack context and that her sentencing practices were in keeping with a bipartisan sentencing commission's recommendations.
Beasley will face Republican nominee Rep. Ted Budd in November.
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