Plenty of political ads are abhorrent because they are so misleading.
A new ad running statewide in Missouri against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill adds an unsavory ingredient. It’s so disgusting that it rises to another level.
The ad, paid for by the conservative Club for Growth, resurrects decades-old, unproven domestic violence accusations against McCaskill’s husband, businessman Joseph Shepard. The 30-second spot suggests the senator has ignored victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse throughout her career.
That’s as preposterous a claim as you’ll find in contemporary American politics.
The ad does something else: It implies that McCaskill cast votes aimed at lining the pockets of her husband, and by extension, herself. That’s also not true.
The ad is so despicable that it could wind up boomeranging by generating sympathy — and therefore support — for McCaskill, who is in a too-close-to-call race with the likely GOP nominee, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley. McCaskill led Hawley by the slimmest of margins in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, 45-44 percent.
Let’s focus on one ridiculously far-fetched claim in the spot: “As victims cry for help, is Claire McCaskill listening?” Her record on women’s rights is so long and involved that The Daily Beast once referred to her as “Washington’s leading sexual assault reformer.”
Her advocacy began when, as an assistant prosecutor in the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office — and the office’s only woman — she challenged an older colleague who once suggested there was no point in trying a rape case when the victim was on birth control.
She thought her colleagues would laugh. They didn’t. So McCaskill spoke up. “Hypothetically, Larry, if I’m taking the birth control pill, does that mean if I go out tonight, that anybody can rape me and they get away with it?”
She waged long and successful battles against sexual assault on campuses and in the military. She conducted a first-of-its-kind national survey on sexual assault in 2014. She passed two major laws addressing sexual assault in the military.
She waged a two-year battle against online sex trafficking that led to legislation the president signed this year aimed at halting the practice. Her work led to the shuttering of Backpage, a website that facilitated trafficking.
As the Jackson County prosecutor, she worked to create the office’s domestic violence unit. In Washington, she is a longtime backer of the Violence Against Women Act and is pushing for its renewal this year.
Get the idea?
If that wasn’t enough, Suzy Shepard, Joseph Shepard’s former wife, has said in a statement that the Club for Growth ad is “terribly unfair” and “the worst kind of disgusting dirty politics.” She says she backs McCaskill’s re-election.
The suggestion that McCaskill’s voted to line her family’s pockets is also misguided. A recent McClatchy investigation found no evidence that she played any part in directing federal funds to businesses affiliated with her husband. The investigation did find that businesses linked to Shepard have been awarded more than $131 million in federal subsidies since the Missouri Democrat took office in 2007.
A McCaskill spokeswoman denounced the ad as “ugly” and “shameful” and said the senator wouldn’t discuss her husband’s more than 20-year-old divorce.
Hawley should denounce the ad. After all, this campaign is still young, and Missourians deserve so much better.