Is Alaskan Sen. Mark Begich sorry for his “pants on fire” ad against Republican Dan Sullivan? Apparently, he’s not. The ad insinuated that Dan Sullivan, who at the time was Alaska’s Attorney General, shares some of the blame in a brutal 2013 murder, where an elderly couple was killed, along with the sexual assault of their 2-year-old granddaughter and the girl’s 91-year-old great-grandmother. Where was Sullivan at fault? He gave out light sentences to sex offenders, one of which committed the horrific crime.
The ad was pulled after the victims’ family voiced their outrage at not being consulted. Additionally, the trial is set to begin next month. Sullivan also pulled his ad responding to Begich’s ludicrous claims.
It was the Democrats’ attempt at a Willie Horton-style attack, which failed miserably. Even left-leaning Politifact said the ad is “not only inaccurate, it makes an inflammatory accusation.” Even the Washington Post said the line of attack won’t hurt Sullivan, “first, because his culpability for the decision to set Active free was tenuous to non-existent from the outset. And second, thanks to unrelenting pressure from the already-victimized family.”
Yet, Begich’s campaign says the accusation is “valid” (via WSJ):
Begich spokesman Max Croes said the substance of the attack against Mr. Sullivan remains valid. “Dan Sullivan should still be straightforward with Alaskans and answer questions about the light sentences he awarded as attorney general,” Mr. Croes said. “A pattern that required a subsequent attorney general to change sentencing requirements for sex offenders.”
Moreover, it seems Begich’s advisers initially refused to pull the ad, according to the Associated Press:
Begich's advisers in Washington and some in in Alaska told him there was no way the campaign could continue to run his ad if the victims' relatives were publicly criticizing it. His top campaign aides initially were reluctant to pull the spot, but eventually acquiesced, according to several Democrats who took part in the discussions, which continued throughout the weekend. All spoke on condition of anonymity to share information about those private discussions.
Begich had long planned to make Sullivan's record as attorney general a focus of the fall campaign. His spokesman, Max Croes, said that remains the plan, as does scrutinizing Sullivan's record as a former natural resources commissioner.
Andy Holleman, who leads an Anchorage teachers union and backs Begich, called the ad a distraction. In his view, Sullivan is not personally responsible for what is alleged to have happened in the 2013 killings.
"I would prefer that they do keep the campaign on clear issues," Holleman said. "It's an ugly situation."
One of the editors from the Alaskan Journal of Commerce responded to the ad by publishing an op-ed asking “Is Begich this afraid of Dan Sullivan?”
But rather than hit his target, Begich shot himself in the foot. The ad wasn’t rooted in anything resembling the truth but was born out of apparent desperation. Sullivan was able to easily counter the attack by noting he wasn’t even attorney general when the error that led to Active’s release was made.
Begich stood by the ad until an irate letter from the victims’ family attorney stated Begich’s ad “shocked them,” was “tearing the family apart” and made them want to leave the state forever.
Even Jon Stewart commented that the Begich ad wasn’t grounded in truth.
It seems for now, the Begich campaign holds a “sorry, I’m not sorry” position. Stay classy, folks.