Nearly every major campaign at some point faces a classic public-relations dilemma: what do you do when a rival launches a scurrilous and untrue attack? You can respond forcefully, running the risk that you’ll bring more attention to the lies, or you can ignore it, running the risk that the lies will go unchallenged and voters might deem them true.
In Georgia’s competitive U.S. Senate race, Michelle Nunn (D) found herself in this exact situation. Republican David Perdue recently approved a National Republican Senatorial Committee attack ad that accused Nunn of funneling money to terrorists while leading former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation. Neil Bush, the former president’s son, called the attack “ridiculous” and “shameful,” adding that the allegations make his “blood boil.”
As Benjy Sarlin reported, Nunn is trying to turn Perdue’s attack against him, making his dishonesty a campaign issue.
Georgia Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Michelle Nunn is out with a new TV ad in which she directly rebuts her Republican rival David Perdue’s claim that she “funded organizations linked to terrorists” while running former President George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation.“That’s a terrible lie and an insult to the millions of volunteers I worked with to make a difference,” Nunn says in the new ad. “David Perdue’s ad has been called the worst in America and President Bush’s son called it ‘shameful.’”
Nunn’s pushback has the benefit of being true. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation directed grants to a problematic entity called Islamic Relief Worldwide, but additional research helped show that “the grants referred to funds that eBay sellers donated, not the foundation itself.”
The usual rules still apply, of course, and Nunn risks bringing attention to ugly falsehoods, but at the same time there may be real value in raising questions about Perdue’s character. If Nunn’s response succeeds, the question for Georgians to ask themselves is what kind of candidate would launch such an attack, and more to the point, what kind of senator would he be?
Here’s the ad from the Nunn campaign: