Last week, VoteVets.org unveiled one of the most talked-about campaign commercials of the election season. Thanks to YouTube, it quickly became must-see TV. Given the reaction, the ad came under fire this week, but it's worth noting that the ad, like good body armor, remains very much intact.
The ad began airing in Virginia, criticizing Sen. George Allen (R) for his vote against body armor funding in 2003. VoteVets' charge drew such a positive response, and garnered so much support, the group brought its ad to Pennsylvania to take on Sen. Rick Santorum (R).
The VoteVets.org commercial is not, however, without controversy. FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania and which often has non-partisan credibility, scrutinized the ad and questioned its accuracy. Allen and Senate Republicans, FactCheck.org said, never voted against supplemental funding for body armor. The accusation, it said, is "just plain wrong." FactCheck.org's research was quickly picked up by other news outlets.
So, who's right? Did Allen vote against the body armor or not? Media Matters set the record straight this week.
In recent days, both The Arizona Republic editorial page and the website FactCheck.org have attacked as "deceitful" and "just plain wrong" a television advertisement by the newly formed group Vote Vets criticizing Sen. George F. Allen (R-VA) for his April 2003 opposition to a Democratic amendment that would have increased U.S. National Guard funding for body armor.
While the Republic and FactCheck have conceded that Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the amendment's sponsor, made clear in a press release that the $1 billion measure included funding for helmets and bulletproof vests, both outlets have nonetheless argued that, because Landrieu did not specify "body armor" as a "priority" when discussing the legislation on the Senate floor, the assertion that Allen voted against body armor is "false" and "scandalous."
But regardless of whether Landrieu specifically cited "body armor," she repeatedly stated on the floor that the bill would ensure that National Guard soldiers had "helmets" and other "force protection" equipment intended to "minimize causalities." More important, in their defense of Allen, the Republic falsely suggested -- and FactCheck falsely asserted -- that Allen and his Republican colleagues have never voted against supplemental funding for body armor. In fact, six months later, they opposed an amendment offered by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), which would have provided additional funding explicitly for body armor.
In a statement to TPM Muckraker, VoteVets.org spokesman Eric Schmeltzer applauded the work of Media Matters. "The record is as clear as day on this vote, and MediaMatters has exposed FactCheck's sloppy and false work for what it is."
Now we know.