Sleazy Campaign Phone Calls
Presidential campaigns, voters upset about misleading calls (Detroit Free Press)
Some voters on Monday complained of getting misleading automated phone calls over the weekend telling them either that their polling place had changed or that a vote for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was a vote to legalize gay marriage. The messages – known as robo calls – were placed in heavily Democratic cities of Detroit, Flint and Pontiac and the Democratic-leaning city of Grand Rapids. Ã¢€œWhen you vote this Tuesday, remember to legalize gay marriage by supporting John Kerry,Ã¢€ the call said. Ã¢€œItÃ¢€™s what we all want. ItÃ¢€™s a basic Democratic principle.Ã¢€
Kerry opposes same sex marriage. Earlier this year, Kerry spoke against a proposal to amend the federal constitutional to ban same sex marriage, saying the issue was divisive and should be left up to states. He supports civil unions for gay or lesbian couples.
Some Michigan voters have received phone calls falsely claiming that Sen. John Kerry would make gay marriage legal. In New Jersey, some voters have heard a man claiming to be former Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf backing the Democrat. Republicans and Democrats were furious Monday about the blatantly false, 11th-hour political calls to voters and demanded an end to the messages.
Schwarzkopf has endorsed Bush, but in a recording of a phone call played for The Associated Press, a man identifying himself as the Persian Gulf War general says, “In 2000, I voted for George W. Bush, but this year I’m voting for John Kerry. … John Kerry has a real plan to make our military stronger and to go after terrorists wherever they hide. We need a vote for change, vote for John Kerry.” A voice says the message was paid for by the Democratic National Committee. In a statement from the Bush campaign, Schwarzkopf said the DNC was making fraudulent phone calls claiming that he had endorsed Kerry, and “nothing could be further from the truth, and I demand that they stop immediately.
Such tactics have long been used but that doesn’t make them less despicable. My guess is that both sets of calls were done by independent groups without coordination with the campaigns.
One could at least argue that the “Kerry supports gay marriage” calls are true in the same sense that Kerry’s oft-repeated charge that “Bush is bringing back the draft” is true. Kerry opposes a Constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman and, presumably, judges appointed by Kerry would be more likely to legalize gay marriage by judicial fiat. But lies that have the hint of truth are still lies.
Update (0859): Dan Spencer, reflecting on the Schwarzkoft call, notes that,
This type of dirty trick is truly despicable as there is no time to even try to undo the damage it could do to the Bush campaign in a Florida, which Zogby’s latest Battle Ground Poll found to be tied
Update (0941): The veracity of the Schwarzkoft claim has been called into question by one of my commenters. GoogleNews has dozens of stories on this, including statements from Schwarzkoft denouncing the calls:
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Monday demanded the Democratic National Committee stop telling voters he endorsed John Kerry for president. “The Democratic National Committee is making fraudulent phone calls claiming that I have endorsed Sen. Kerry,” Schwarzkopf said. “Nothing could be further from the truth, and I demand that they stop immediately.” An audio copy of the call, given to UPI with a copy of a statement from Schwarzkopf, says it was “paid for by the Democratic National Committee.”
Presumably, the tape exists and the calls are being made. Atrios has a report that the DNC is claiming that it’s a faked tape. This will sort itself out, although I’m a bit skeptical since the mainstream press is still running with the story as if it’s legit and they’re hardly known to be in the tank for the RNC. Dan Spencer is also trying to check it out.