Truth Test: Ad slams Udall as soft on ISIS

KUSA - Explosions, tanks, rocket launchers, machine guns, and a lot of men dressed in turbans and facemasks flash by in the space of two seconds, accompanied by a dramatic crescendo, in a new ad running against Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado.)

It's quite apparent from this fear-montage that the strategy in the latest ad from the Republican National Senatorial Committee is hoping to paint Udall as soft on terrorism.

More specifically, the message is that Udall isn't concerned about the Islamic State (also called ISIS or ISIL.)

It's getting heavy airtime on TV screens in Colorado, but it isn't a fair argument.

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The ad finishes by asking you to contemplate what would happen if Udall were re-elected, posing the question "can we take that chance?"

Here's the case the ad lays out to convince you that Udall is a risky choice when it comes to national security:

CLAIM: "With his single-issue campaign, Mark Udall doesn't want to talk about other issues, like our national security."

VERDICT: Needs context.

This badly needs context.

Sure, the majority of the TV ads on Udall's side are about women's rights.

9NEWS has taken pains to examine these claims in multiple Truth Tests and debunk them when they go too far. We've also covered the criticism of the campaign strategy.

However, it's not fair to portray either Senate candidate as flat-out avoiding the debate over national security.

In fact, on September 2 (the day the Steven Sotloff execution video came out) both Udall and Gardner agreed to talk with 9NEWS within a matter of hours. They both realized it was important.

Just because a candidate doesn't run TV ads about a topic, doesn't mean they don't take the topic seriously. By that standard, Gardner could also be accused of ignoring ISIS. This ad from the NRSC is the first to bring it up as a topic in the race.

Further, one of the citations on screen refers to a reportfrom NBC News about "imminent attack plotting," which refers to the justification for airstrikes on the Khorasan group, not ISIS.

That's a fact that matters in the context of the ads next claim:

CLAIM: "So with America's national security threatened, warnings of Islamic extremists, ISIL, plotting imminent attacks, but what does Mark Udall say? [Udall:] 'I said last week that ISIL does not present an imminent threat to this nation, and it doesn't.' Really?"
VERDICT: Deceptive

To play this sound bite with no other context about Udall's views on ISIS is totally deceptive.

The NRSC ad makes it seem like Udall doesn't think ISIS is a threat- period.

They edited down a reply Udall gave in a debate last month to a deeply unfair soundbite.

This first part of Udall's answer also drew groans from the audience… until Udall finished his thought.

Here's the relevant exchange, with emphasis added:

Gardner: "Just last week, Sen. Udall said that ISIL doesn't even pose a threat to the homeland, even though he receives briefings every day."

Udall: "You can say what you want here, but you really have to look at the record. I said last week that ISIL does not present an imminent threat to this nation, and it doesn't. I sit on the armed services committee and intelligences committee. If we don't respond to the threat it represents, they will be a threat to this country."

Udall went on to outline a series of actions against ISIS and eventually made a comment about what two executed Americans would think of how to proceed, which he later apologized for.

Regardless of that controversy, the position Udall expressed reflects essentially what the intelligence community has been saying: that attacks from ISIS on U.S. soil aren't imminent, but the group could pose a threat here someday.

The phrase "plotting imminent attacks" is also a subtle, but important manipulation of a phrase about the aforementioned Khorasan group, which is not the same group as ISIL. The administration reported that it was targeting the group to stop "imminent attack plotting,."

Journalists quickly discovered that this bit of Washington-speak meant that it was the plotting and not the attack that was in fact "imminent." Changing the word order in the ad script to imply the attack is imminent falsely builds a stronger-looking case.

For his part,Gardner told 9NEWS a month ago he thinks ISIS is a credible threat around the globe, but also that he feels like there are mixed messages coming from the administration about how dangerous the group is.

BOTTOM LINE: It's all fine and well to have a debate about ISIS's capability and our response, but this ad grossly misrepresents Udall as ignorant and aloof about whether the group is even a problem in the first place.

Udall's own words simply don't back that up, but the ad is hoping you won't know the difference.

(9NEWS researcher Jordan Sabolish contributed to this report)

(KUSA-TV © 2014 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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