By KEITH LAING
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Sept. 27, 2010…..No stranger to controversial statements, U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson’s latest campaign salvo compares his opponent in his race for re-election, former House Speaker Dan Webster, to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in new ad that is among the most provocative of the cycle.
Running for a second term in the central Florida district, Grayson refers to Webster as “Taliban Dan” in an ad focused on abortion rights.
In the ad, which began running over the weekend, a narrator talks over a clip of Webster saying “wives should submit to their husbands,” a quote Grayson’s campaign said comes from a 2009 speech Webster gave to the Institute in Basic Life Principles, a religious non-profit organization.
“Religious fanatics try to take away our freedom, in Afghanistan, in Iran and right here in Central Florida,” a female narrator says in the commercial. “Daniel Webster wants to impose his radical fundamentalism on us. Webster tried to deny battered women medical care, and the right to divorce their abusers. He wants to force raped women to bear the child. Taliban Dan Webster. Hands off our bodies and our laws.”
Webster’s campaign responded to the ad forcefully Monday, putting out a statement from his wife Sandy, who was doing television interviews with him in the afternoon to rebut the charges.
“Alan Grayson’s latest attack on my husband is insulting to me and my family” Sandy Webster said in a statement released by Webster’s campaign. “Mr. Grayson seems to have a problem telling the truth and no problem misleading the public. Dan has been an amazing husband and father, who powerfully loves his family. Mr. Grayson should be ashamed of his nasty smears against my husband.”
Webster’s spokesman Brian Graham added that comparing the former state representative, who was the first Republican Speaker of the Florida House in over 100 years in the mid-1990s, was beyond the pale.
“Alan Grayson is at it again, misleading voters with false negative ads against Daniel Webster, while ignoring his own record of promoting increased debt, deficit spending and rising taxes. To compare Daniel Webster to terrorists who killed thousands of Americans is beyond ludicrous,” Graham said.
The Grayson ad was flagged right away Monday by media outlets as likely to be controversial, but rather than back down from it, Grayson sought to turn it into advantage, circulating the clip to supporters in a fundraising solicitation.
“Isn’t it about time that someone told the truth about the Ridiculous Right?,” he said in a campaign e-mail. “The berserk, bizarre, bonkers, crazy, delirious, demented, drooling, farcical, flipped-out, lunatic, off-the-wall, nutty, unhinged, weird and wild psychos, dullards and tools who have taken over the Republican Party?
“We have taken the most crackpot views of our Republican opponent Dan Webster’s many crackpot views, and put them all in one 30-second spot,” the E-mail continued, while also calling Webster the “man with the 19th century name, and the 14th century ideas.”
The ad isn’t the first controversial commercial from Grayson, whose national notoriety has helped him raise more than $3.7 million for his re-election bid. Last week, he released an ad accusing Webster of being “a draft dodger,” saying Webster “doesn’t love this country.”
Webster received a military deferment while pursuing undergraduate studies at Georgia Tech University. Deferements were relatively common, and upon graduation, Webster reported for service but failed a military physical.
That ad drew the ire of Republican Party of Florida Chairman Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, and Vietnam veteran, who rushed to Webster’s defense on military issues.
“Daniel Webster is a friend, a patriot, and a true servant to the people of Florida,” Thrasher said in a statement late last week. “Alan Grayson’s latest attacks are deeply unfortunate, offensive, and a stark reminder of how extreme Alan Grayson actually is.
“Grayson’s ad questions the patriotism of every American who received college deferments or were unable to serve due to a physical condition. The citizens of Congressional District 8 know better than to believe Mr. Grayson’s nasty and misleading attacks against Daniel Webster.”