Many people heard about the controversial national Democratic fundraising ad aired earlier this month showing images of American flag-draped coffins, along with the message that it is time for a change in the Washington guard.
Lesser known is the Republican National Congressional Committee’s effort to capitalize on the debate by putting extreme heat to denounce the ads on Democratic candidates around the country – including in Colorado’s Congressional District 5, where war veteran Jay Fawcett is mounting his campaign.
Problem is, the RNCC didn’t actually notify Fawcett or other candidates of their demands. Those were instead delivered via a relentless nine-day media blitz – and long after the ads were no longer on the air.
On Thursday, July 13, the RNCC e-mailed a press release to media outlets across Colorado, in which its communications director, Carl Forti, was quoted saying the following:
“Washington Democrats have gone beyond the pale of acceptable political discourse by exploiting the ultimate sacrifice of U.S. soldiers in order to raise campaign cash. If Jay Fawcett wants to be known as a serious candidate who supports our men and women fighting so bravely abroad and the families of those who have fallen, he ought to say whether it is appropriate to exploit fallen heroes as fundraising hooks.”
This is what came from the RNCC the next day:
DAY TWO: Still silence from Veteran Fawcett
“If Jay Fawcett wants to be known as a serious candidate and as someone who supports our troops, he would have immediately condemned this fundraising tactic,” Forti wrote in a virtual repeat of the day before. “Jay Fawcett’s silence on this issue is deafening.”
And so the press releases came from the RNCC, for seven more days:
DAY THREE: Jay Fawcett Still Silent
DAY FOUR: Jay Fawcett Still Silent
DAY FIVE: Jay Fawcett Still Silent
DAY SIX: Jay Fawcett’s Utter Silence
DAY SEVEN: Jay Fawcett’s Utter Silence
DAY EIGHT: Jay Fawcett’s Utter Silence
DAY NINE: Jay Fawcett Still Silent
On the ninth day, July 21, Fawcett responded to the firestorm. Turns out a phone call from this reporter was the first he’d heard of any of it. Yes, he knew about the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s controversial ad. But, the Republican demands – that Fawcett personally answer for them – were completely new to him.
“I didn’t know the Republicans were in such an uproar,” said Fawcett, an Air Force Academy graduate who served in Desert Storm. “They haven’t contacted me.”
Then, Fawcett joked, “I guess they figure I should be hitting (the RNCC’s) website.”
Then, Fawcett got serious about the ad.
“War is an emotional issue, and anytime anyone perceives that war is being used for promotional purposes, it’s a concern. On the other side, that’s the cost when you send people to war. People come back in coffins; that’s what happens. Some will view [the ad] as abusive of the men and women who have served, and other people will see it as cost of war. The bottom line is, commercials are commercials. What congress needs to do, and that’s why I’m running, is step forward with leadership and do its job.”
Then, Fawcett offered another joke: “I’m gonna go back to being silent now…”
From Washington, NRCC spokesman Alex Burgos confirmed the Republican group had not actually contacted Fawcett or his campaign during their nine-day attack blitz against him. Nor had they given a heads up to other Democratic war veterans running for Congress this year – who were similarly targeted during the RDCC’s nine-day press release war.
“We think it’s a question that is important for the media to ask,” was Burgos’ explanation. “Our effort with regard to this video is to ask every Democrat what the video is and to urge each candidate to tell voters what their position is on using caskets as fundraising props.”
In other words, the National Republican Congressional Committee was attempting to embarrass Democratic candidates. Next time, they might consider going straight to the source – instead of trying to manipulate the media to do its bidding.