Alan Grayson's "Taliban Dan" Attack Ad: Does FactCheck.org Need to Check Their Own Facts?

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It's really no surprise that Florida's loud mouthed Rep. Alan Grayson has produced what's become the most talked about attack ad of the season. In a 30-second spot that began airing in Grayson's Orlando-area district last week, the first term Democrat compares Republican opponent Dan Webster to religious fundamentalists like the Taliban. It's cringe worthy, sure, but FactCheck.org says he manipulates Webster's words into making it seem like he's saying the opposite of what he actually meant. It seems the site might need to check its own facts.

Here's the ad in question:



Conservatives have been airing over-the-top smear ads based on social issues for years now, so it's interesting to see Grayson using the same tactics but from an unapologetically progressive and feminist viewpoint. He attacks Webster, a veteran of the state legislature, for believing woman should be forced to carry a child conceived through rape to term, trying to deny medical care for battered women, and rewriting divorce laws in ways that would be favorable to men. Which is true, mostly. [PolitiFact does a much better job at dissecting the ad]

Though, just because the politics are different it doesn't make this kind of ad anymore acceptable. It's still outrageous, and dare we say the Arabic-influence font Grayson uses for Webster's name comes off as slightly Islamaphobic.

That's not what had FactCheck.org crying foul though. The ad shows Webster saying several times either "Wives submit yourself to your own husbands" and "She should submit to me." FactCheck.org claims that Webster was actually critiquing that Biblically-influenced attitude.

"The full context of the remarks make clear that Webster is not telling wives to submit to their husbands. Just the opposite," writes the site, before providing the full transcripts from Webster's speech at the religious Advanced Training Institute regional conference in Nashville in 2009:
So, write a journal. Second, find a verse. I have a verse for my wife, I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, 'She should submit to me.' That's in the Bible, but pick the ones that you're supposed to do. So instead, 'love your wife, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it' as opposed to 'wives submit to your own husbands.' She can pray that, if she wants to, but don't you pray it.
So, yes. The sound bites Grayson's ad uses are slightly out of context. Which, sadly, isn't exactly uncommon in political attack ads.

But FactCheck.org is dead wrong in saying that Webster is saying, "Just the opposite."

He just advises men to use verses in the Bible during prayer that advise them how to treat their wives. He then says that if the wives want to pray that they should submit to their husbands, that's just fine. No problem with that.

That's not the opposite of refuting those verses completely.

Here's how the DailyKos puts it:
As you can see, Webster is not challenging the notion that women should "submit" to their husbands nor is he challenging the notion that "children are told to obey their parents." In fact, he explicitly says both of those notions are enshrined in the Bible. All he's doing is saying telling this group of men that when they pray, they should instead pray to meet their own responsibilities. But that doesn't dismiss the fact that he believes women have a responsibility to submit to their husbands just as he believes children should obey their parents.
Basically, the whole argument ravels off into a big discussion about semantics that we could pick apart for hours. But here's the take away points:

  • Yes Webster's record on feminist and pro-choice issues is abysmal.
  • Yes, Grayson took his remarks out of context.
  • No, they were not taken so far out of context to imply that he was saying the exact opposite of what he meant.
  • Yes, the ad is cringe inducing, but Republicans use similar tactics all the time.
  • Yes, Alan Grayon continues to be a hot liberal mess who is not apologizing for it.
  • Yes, we are glad we do not live in Central Florida.

[FactCheck: Rep. Grayson Lowers the Bar]
[WaPo: Testing 'American Taliban']
[DailyKos:FL-08: Did Taliban Dan really say that? Why yes, he did!]

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