Grayson Goes Too Far with Slander

October 8, 2010 Opinion

Former President Bill Clinton once said, “[Politics] is a contact sport.” This seems to be the case in light of a new campaign advertisement from Rep. Alan Grayson from Florida’s 8th district, seeking re-election this November. The new ad, attacking the supposed beliefs of rival Sen. Daniel Webster has taken a life of its own and has gone on to hit the national circuit.

In the ad, released last week, Grayson accuses his opponent of being a “religious fanatic,” to the likes of an Islamic radical or Muslim extremist. Dubbed “Taliban Dan,” Grayson goes on to “quote” Webster as saying he wants to “take your freedom away” such as the terrorists do in Middle Eastern countries like Afghanistan and Iran. There are also claims made, sourcing various newspapers and House Bill 1586, spouting off how he wants to “make divorce illegal,” “deny battered women … the right to divorce their abusers,” and “force raped women to bear their attackers’ child.” In between each claim sound bites of Webster saying “wives, submit yourself to your own husband” and “She should submit to me. That’s in the Bible” are played multiple times throughout the 30-second ad. In any other case, revealing information of this type so close to the election would be all it takes to end their run for office. That is, if the claims were true and not taken out of context. When I say taken out of context, I mean edited so precisely as to make Webster say the exact opposite of his initial quote.

The alleged video was “taken from a talk to fathers” at the 2009 Advanced Training Institute (ATI) regional conference in Nashville. The ATI is a religious-based program developed by the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), whose message is that of support to parents in raising their children through the teaching and love of Jesus Christ. Bill Gothard, founder of the IBLP, said that Webster had home-schooled his children using the institute’s curriculum and had given speeches in the past as well. Below is Webster’s “quote,” put in the full context of his speech:

“So, write a journal. Second, fi nd a verse. I have a verse for my wife. I have verses for my wife. Don’t pick the ones that say, ‘She should submit to me.’ That’s in the Bible, but pick the ones that you’re supposed to do. So instead, ‘love your wife, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it’ as opposed to ‘wives submit to your own husbands.’ She can pray that if she wants to, but don’t you pray it.”

As one can see, Webster’s statement (in full context) was completely opposite of what Grayson claimed he said. Yet this is not the fi rst time the representative has twisted the information of his opponent in political ads. Just a few weeks earlier, Grayson claimed Webster was a “draft dodger” who “refused the call to service” during the Vietnam War, when in actuality, Webster received routine student deferments in high school and college, was disqualified for medical reasons after college, and was never able to serve.

Concerning the other claims in the ad, some are hit and miss as well. While it is true that Webster would aim to prevent abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, the claim of “denying batt ered women … the right to divorce their abusers” is a litt le more deceptive. The claim is based on legislation he sponsored in the Florida House of Representatives 20 years ago. The bill, HB 1585, would have allowed Florida residents the option of a “covenant marriage,” which would limit their divorce rights. Under the proposal, couples could dissolve a covenant marriage only in cases of adultery, yet it would not have applied to anyone who did not choose to enter a covenant marriage. The legislation died in committee in June 1990 and Webster has not advocated for covenant marriages as a congressional candidate.

Politics is not only a contact sport, but it can be dirty and one needs a thick skin to even make it on the ballot, let alone compete for the ultimate prize. But Grayson’s actions are deplorable. Yet in what seems to be the new norm of the political arena, mere name calling is not enough anymore (although still prevalent, with Republicans referring to Democrats as Marxist and Communist, just as Democrats called former President George W. Bush a Nazi and his administration Fascist); now, candidates have the gall to swing false claims as fact, with no repercussion or care in the world. Political candidates feel less inclined to talk about their ideologies and spend more time attacking their opponent’s character and beliefs, many times fallaciously.

We, as responsible voters, need to look past the petty squabbles and vote, not based on the lies and perception of one candidate over another, but through personal research and therefore figuring out which candidate is right for you.

We need to take a stand and show all candidates who run that we are not interested in the lies and will not stand by frivolously as deception is told to us as fact, be it from any party at any time, anymore.

About Amir Sadeh

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