The latest ad from the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA Action has caused a stir for suggesting that Mitt Romney is responsible for the cancer death of a steelworker’s wife, which is a lie, or at the very least an “extremely tenuous chain of causality.” On Wednesday, the commercial was defended by the co-founder of Priorities USA Action and its star, who both denied that it’s meant to give viewers the impression that Romney essentially killed a woman.
The Obama campaign has also tried to distance itself from the ad, even though steelworker Joe Soptic told the same story on an Obama campaign conference call earlier this year. “We have nothing, no involvement, with any ads that are done by Priorities USA. We don’t have any knowledge of the story of the family,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.
In a CNN interview with Priorities USA Action’s Bill Burton, Wolf Blitzer insisted that’s been the general consensus about the ad, saying, “Anybody who watches that 60 second ad comes away and says Mitt Romney is responsible, at least indirectly, for this lovely woman’s death.” Burton countered, “I just don’t think that’s true,” adding, “the truth is what this ad is about is what Mitt Romney wants his campaign to be about.” He explained that the ad was actually an example of the general effects of Romney’s work at Bain:
“The point of this ad is to tell the story of one guy, Joe Soptic, and the impact on his life that happened for years, and to this day, as a result of decisions that Mitt Romney made … This is one of a series of ads in which we talk about the very long lasting impacts that Mitt Romney’s decision had on these communities, on these individuals and their families.”
Soptic, the former GST Steel worker, told The Wall Street Journal that he thinks the ad is fair, but added a caveat: “I’m not blaming him for her death. I wouldn’t do that.” While Soptic says in the ad that he lost his job and his health insurance, then “a short time after that my wife became ill,” in the last day it’s been revealed that Ilyona Soptic had insurance through her employer when he was laid off, and he had the opportunity to add her to his insurance at his next job, but they couldn’t afford it. When speaking with the paper, Soptic elaborated on the promises Romney broke, and the consequences:
“He was one of the investors [in the plant]. When they bought the company, they guaranteed us that we would receive a full pension and health care. And when [the company] filed for bankruptcy, I lost some of my pension and all my health care. And if I’ve had that health care, her quality of life would probably have been a little better.”
So while the quick jump from the plant’s closing to the death of Ilyona Soptic in the ad led many to believe that Priorities USA Action was blaming Romney for her death, their full argument is that Romney’s actions gradually led to the family’s downfall, which included Ilyona Soptic’s sad end. For some reason, that nuance just didn’t make it into the ad.