|Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) ran an advertisement last week accusing her challenger of being in league with "godless Americans." The 30-second ad provoked a lawsuit, counter-ads and now a new ad from Dole, which appeared during Friday's lunch hour, seeking to clarify the real issue.
Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) ran an advertisement last week accusing her challenger of being in league with "godless Americans." The 30-second ad provoked a lawsuit, counter-ads and now a new ad from Dole, which appeared during Friday's lunch hour, seeking to clarify the real issue.
The ad that started it all began airing in North Carolina last week as Democrat Kay Hagan, currently a state senator, held a narrow lead in polls over incumbent Dole, who has held her senate seat since 2002.
The ad featured clips of people associated with the Godless Americans Political Action Committee and said Hagan attended a fundraiser related to GAMPAC.
GAMPAC "endorses candidates for public office who support the First Amendment separation of church and state; defend equal rights and protections for our nation's godless Americans; inform our community of the voting records of their elected representatives on issues of concern; and support our goal of having "a place at the table" in formulating public policy," according to its own Web site.
"Godless Americans and Kay Hagan," the ad's narrator said. "She hid from cameras. Took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?"
The ad's kicker was the finale, which showed a picture of Hagan and featured a woman's voice saying, "There is no God." The voice was not that of Hagan, but of someone doing standard voice-over work.
Hagan's attorneys demanded Wednesday that the ad vanish. It didn't. They filed suit in a superior court yesterday alleging defamation and libel, according to an Associated Press story.
The Dole campaign called the lawsuit a "gimmick" and kept the ad up on the campaign's Web site until about 1 p.m. CT Friday.
The campaign issued a press release Friday that highlighted a portion of Hagan's interview with News Talk 680 WPTF, in which she denied taking money from GAMPAC.
"Kay Hagan was asked about her fundraiser at the home of a founder of the Godless Americans PAC," read the release. "Her answers (or lack thereof) are both illuminating and pretty darned funny."
In the interview, Hagan denied taking money from GAMPAC, but not from Woody Kaplan, an advisor to GAMPAC. A CNN.com story, referencing a letter from Dole's attorneys to Hagan's, said Kaplan gave $2,300 to Hagan's campaign.
Kaplan was a host of the fundraiser that Hagan attended in September. The event, according to several sources, was not a Godless Americans event but one that featured several hosts, including Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
The 55-year-old Hagan, who received the endorsement of the Raleigh News & Observer, hit back at Dole's campaign ad. Hagan responded Oct. 29 by sending an e-mail to supporters. She said the ad constituted "personal slander" and talked of her own faith.
"I was raised going to Sunday school and church every week and I raised my children that way. The Hagan family has attended the First Presbyterian Church for over 100 years—that's where I've taught Sunday school," she said in the e-mail. "If Senator Dole wants to pass judgment on my faith, that's her right—but that's not the kind of response MY faith teaches."
Her campaign also produced a counter-ad in which she said her campaign was about creating jobs and "not bearing false witness against fellow Christians."
The new ad, which appeared at lunchtime Friday on Dole's campaign site, begins: "Kay Hagan's faith? Not the question. But these facts Hagan cannot deny." It goes on to say that Godless Americans held a fundraiser in Hagan's honor, that she attended and that she took their money. The narrator says Godless Americans want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance "and our everyday lives."
"If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor," the narrator ends, "would you go?"
In addition to the new ad, the Dole campaign initiated automated telephone calls, called "robocalls," to 1.3 million voters.
"The calls ask listeners to 'press 1' to hear from Hagan," according to an Associated Press story. "It plays clips of an interview in which Hagan talks about why she attended the event after Dole's campaign raised questions about the hosts."
Dole, now 72, was elected to the U.S. senate by North Carolinians in 2002. The Salisbury, N.C. native sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Hagan has been serving as a state senator for 10 years. Prior to that she was a vice president at NCNB (now Bank of America).