Vaughn Ward’s Idaho campaign for Congress was winding down in the final days of the primary when the media, his opponents, and even Jay Leno pushed a damning video alleging that the Republican stole campaign lines from President Obama.
During an interview with The Daily Caller, Ward admitted that his “fourteen minute speech included a couple of sentences with similar rhetoric and political clichés to [those of] a 2004 Obama speech.” But he said the video was designed with “malicious intent” and charged that its creator, a conservative opposed to Ward’s candidacy, spliced “together the common words and rhetoric from the two speeches to make it appear that they were identical” when they really were not.
“It wasn’t true,” said Ward, a Sarah Palin-backed Marine who had the support of national Republicans and a double-digit lead in the weeks before the election. “It’s now been self-admitted by the people who designed it. It was a piece of propaganda. That’s their own words they used. And they used it to blow me apart. And they did.”
According to one news account, the man behind the video that portrays Ward using nearly identical phrases from Obama’s famous 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention now admits “there was a lot of editing that went on there.”
“No, it wasn’t accurate. It was a piece of propaganda,” said Lucas Baumbach, the creator of the video, who happens to be running for a seat in the state legislature. “And people thought that there was enough truth in it to change their votes.”
Baumbach did not immediately respond to an email sent to his campaign.
The media, he said, also irresponsibly pushed what he considers a hit piece. “We asked the media to conduct some due diligence prior to running the propaganda,” he said. “No due diligence occurred until after the election when the creator proudly boasted of his accomplishment.”
“Some of the media outlets singularly focused on our campaign with little or no scrutiny elsewhere,” he said. Conservative candidate Raul Labrador, once seen as a long-shot, went on to edge out Ward in the Republican primary on Tuesday.
“The largest station in our state headlined this story and played the propaganda video over and over. Radio stations replayed the propaganda piece throughout the day,” he said.
“I can’t answer for the media generally,” said Dan Popkey, a reporter with the Idaho Statesman, a newspaper that covered the race and the video. He said that the reporters at the paper mostly blogged about the video and did not actually mention it in a news story until a post-mortem on Ward’s candidacy was published.
Ward originally wrote the January speech, but others — including his campaign manager — made changes to it. The campaign claims a young staffer added the Obama-sounding language in question. Ward said he admits that “mistakes were made on our campaign, which I accepted responsibility for and took corrective action.”
Ward’s nomination seemed inevitable until a series of unfortunate stories came out against him: He was criticized for calling Puerto Rico a country. He used a pickup truck that he didn’t own in an advertisement apparently designed to show he’s an average guy. He didn’t disclose his wife’s income from Fannie Mae and was criticized for using his military uniform in a campaign ad. He once paid his property taxes late and was accused of plagiarizing policy positions from other politicians. He didn’t vote in 2008.
He suggests that Democrats, fearing he could upset Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick, fed the stories to the local press in Idaho. The campaign, attempting to show that Democrats were obsessed with Ward, presented The Daily Caller with information showing that his campaign Web site was heavily visited by the IP addresses of national Democratic organizations.
“Web site records show people from the Executive Offices of the President, to the Department of Justice, to the Democrat National Committee collectively visited the campaign website hundreds of times during the Republican primary,” he said.
Palin’s older brother, Chuck Heath Jr., who also endorsed Ward in the race, compared the press treatment of Ward to that of his sister. “Up until two weeks ago, he had a comfortable double-digit lead,” said Heath of Ward. “And then all of a sudden, story after story exploded.”
Palin’s brother said Ward told him he knows “what your sister feels like,” to be “just gutted by the press, basically, and your character just torn apart.”
“I knew that there had to be more behind especially the plagiarized speech than the media was letting on, and it’s pretty much just as I expected,” Heath said. “He’s just a total stand-up guy, and the last thing he would do is go out and plagiarize anything.”
UPDATE: Jim Gilchriest, the executive news director at KTVB television station in Boise, said in an e-mail that Ward’s comments to The Daily Caller in the days after his loss were the impetus for a follow-up investigation that led to the discovery of the additional lifted lines. Gilchriest also took issue with Ward’s contention that “the largest station in our state headlined this story and played the propaganda video over and over,” saying that wasn’t true for KTVB, who only played it once on the eve of the primary.