March 28, 2016

Is Tammy Duckworth’s Campaign Dishonest Or Incompetent?

While attempting to vet Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s widely-reported statement that she supports accepting 200,000 Syrian refugees into the United States, The Washington Post’s fact checker ran into an unusual problem…a seemingly unprecedented level of incompetence from the Duckworth campaign:

Okay, now let’s fast forward to a news conference held in November, which is from where the Kirk campaign got the video clip of Duckworth saying, “I signed on for 200,000 refugees.”

Frustratingly, there appears to be no full audio or video of the questions and answers at the news conference. Even the Duckworth campaign claims it has no audio, though it is standard operating procedure for campaigns — even those for school boards — to record every utterance made by a candidate.

The Fact Checker has never encountered a Senate campaign that claimed it did not have audio of a recent news conference. Duckworth spokesman Matt McGrath conceded it was not SOP.  “We don’t have one on this,” he said. “And we’re not disputing what she said, we’re disputing the context.”

Duckworth’s campaign claimed she’d been referring to a letter she signed pushing for 200,000 total refugees, but not all from Syria. But reporters who were at the press conference – including the reporter who asked the question – dispute Duckworth’s spin:

But the reporters who were there say they specifically asked about 200,000 refugees from Syria. Greg Hinz of Crain’s Chicago Business said: “I asked her about 200,000 for Syria because the buzz here is that was her true position. She responded as reported.”

​Bill Cameron, a radio reporter at WLS, said: “I attended the 11-15-15 presser in which we asked questions about how many Syrian refugees the U.S. should accept and she said 200,000 refugees.”

Multiple news outlets reported that Duckworth called for 200,000 Syrian refugees following the press conference without any pushback from the campaign until it became clear that Duckworth was on the wrong side of a major national security issue for many voters:

In any case, Duckworth’s answer resulted in a pile of clips in which it was stated that she called for accepting 200,000 refugees from Syria. Hinz, whose article became a source for other reporters, said he never was asked by the campaign to correct his report. Not until the “200,000” figure regularly began appearing in Kirk attacks — and after the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., raised alarm about refugees — did the Duckworth campaign move to obtain corrections, such as in an AP report in January.

Either Tammy Duckworth is running the most incompetent campaign since Martha Coakley, or she realized that her position was out of touch with Illinois voters and is making a disingenuous attempt at damage control.