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Romney campaign claims Obama aides caught in 'lies' over controversial ad

 

The Romney campaign charged Thursday that President Obama's aides just got caught in a lie, after an Obama spokeswoman acknowledged the campaign knows the man in a controversial ad despite claims to the contrary a day earlier. 

"The Obama campaign has now admitted that it lied to the media and the American people in a disgraceful attempt to conceal their connection to this shameful smear," Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. 

Williams was referring to the ad by a pro-Obama super PAC that tied the death of a steelworker's wife to Mitt Romney. Obama aides, initially questioned on the ad, said they had nothing to do with it and denied being familiar with the story of the ad's subject, ex-steelworker Joe Soptic. 

Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday "we don't have any knowledge of the story of the family." 

Psaki reversed without explanation on Thursday. 

"No one is denying that he was in ... one of our campaign ads," she said, also acknowledging he participated in a campaign conference call in May. 

Psaki, pressed for the second day in a row about the ad, also complained the media are trying to hold the super PAC ad to the same standard as a recent Romney campaign ad. That ad came under bipartisan criticism for claiming Obama wants to gut welfare reform. 

But while Psaki claimed the welfare ad is "distorting" the president's record, she rejected any attempt to weigh that against what the pro-Obama super PAC did. 

"There's been a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison here when we're comparing an ad that has not even run, by an outside group we have nothing to do with, with an ad that is the basis of Mitt Romney's campaign right now, that is a bald-face lie about the president's record on welfare," she said. "And I think that's frustrating to us because they're being compared at the same level." 

Psaki, though, did not address the honesty of the ad, or the allegations that Obama campaign aides lied repeatedly over their familiarity with the ad's subject. 

Mitt Romney's campaign kept up the drumbeat of criticism on its rival Thursday. 

"The Obama campaign acknowledged today that it ran a television ad and hosted a conference call that promoted the same despicable attack that was used in a discredited ad run by President Obama's Super PAC. ... Americans deserve better," Williams said. 

The campaign rolled out a fundraising email by the end of the day citing the "discredited, dishonest, despicable attack by President Obama's allies." 

"What happened to the campaign of hope and change?" the fundraising email asked. 

The message again said Obama's "top campaign advisers repeatedly lied" about the case. 

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. The ad left out key details about the timeline, including that Soptic's wife died five years after the plant closed, and years after Romney left Bain. 

Allegations that campaign aides later lied about that ad are based on the fact that the Obama campaign has a longstanding relationship with Soptic. He was on a conference call, hosted by Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter, in May recounting his story. Plus he appeared in Obama ads and in a profile on the campaign website. 

Yet after the super PAC ad was released, Cutter said she didn't know when Soptic's wife fell ill, or about his health insurance. Other aides including Psaki made similar statements.