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Obama campaign aide accused of lying over anti-Romney ad, ties to steelworker

 

A top Obama campaign official is being accused of lying over what she knew about the man at the center of a damning super PAC ad tying his wife's death to Mitt Romney.

Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter appeared on CNN Wednesday morning to say, among other things, that "I don't know the facts" about the case of Joe Soptic, a steelworker who appeared in a controversial ad for the pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA. In the ad, Soptic, recounts how his wife died of cancer after he lost his health insurance when his plant was shuttered after a takeover by Bain Capital and other companies working with the private equity firm.

Cutter said she didn't know when Soptic's wife fell ill, or about his health insurance.

Yet in May of this year, Cutter herself hosted a conference call in which Soptic detailed his case to reporters. During the call, as he did in the ad, Soptic explained how his wife fell ill after he lost his job, and how he lost his health insurance. The call took place as Soptic began appearing in Obama campaign ads, and was featured in a profile on the Obama campaign website.

The campaign profile listed Soptic as one of the "faces of Romney economics."

Cutter wasn't the only Obama campaign official caught up in the controversy.

"This is an ad by an entity that's not controlled by campaign. I certainly don't know the specifics of this man's case," campaign adviser Robert Gibbs said on MSNBC. Another Obama campaign spokeswoman separately told reporters that the campaign had no knowledge of the family involved. 

Super PACs and the presidential campaigns are technically separate organizations, or are supposed to be. Both presidential campaigns have in the past cited that separation whenever challenged on super PAC ads. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt again stressed Wednesday, in response to the criticism, that "we can't coordinate with super PACs and didn't produce" the ad. 

In an email to FoxNews.com, LaBolt also acknowledged the conference call but suggested that was beside the point. The email did not address the allegation that anybody had lied. 

"Joe Soptic suffered when he lost his job in the aftermath of the GST Steel plant closing, and no one is denying that he discussed that when he appeared in a campaign advertisement and on a conference call.  The important point here is that Mitt Romney's campaign is based solely on his experience as a corporate buyout specialist, and while he has been quick to claim he created jobs, he refuses to accept responsibility for the jobs that were lost and workers that were impacted," he said. 

Romney's campaign, after decrying the ad on Tuesday, accused Obama's team Wednesday of flat-out "lying" about their familiarity with the case.  

"President Obama and his campaign are willing to say and do anything to hide the President's disappointing record. But they're not entitled to repeatedly mislead voters," Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

Speaking to Fox News, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul also called the ad "disgusting" and "despicable." She said the ad "just shows the depth to which the Obama campaign and their allies will go to try to smear Mitt Romney."

The ad did not reveal key details about the timeline of Soptic's case. First, Soptic's wife initially had her own health insurance after her husband lost his job. Second, Soptic's wife died in 2006, five years after her husband's company, GST, filed for bankruptcy. And long after Romney had left Bain Capital.