Published December 23, 2015
The former Kansas City steelworker featured in a scathing ad tying his wife's death to Mitt Romney has appeared in Obama campaign videos before -- despite claims by a top Obama adviser Wednesday that he doesn't know "the specifics of this man's case" amid revelations that the ad is inaccurate and misleading.
The Romney campaign and other fact-checkers have pushed back hard on the ad, released Tuesday by pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. The ad, featuring former GST Steel worker Joe Soptic, suggests Romney was in some way responsible for the death of Soptic's wife because his plant was shuttered after a takeover by Romney's firm and others -- and because his wife died of cancer after he lost his health insurance.
However, the ad hides details about the timeline of those events. Soptic's wife died five years after GST filed for bankruptcy. His wife reportedly had her own health insurance after Soptic left GST. And Romney had long since left Bain Capital at the time of her death.
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul called the ad "disgusting" and "despicable" in an interview with Fox News. "This ad just shows the depth to which the Obama campaign and their allies will go to try to smear Mitt Romney," she said.
Further, the Obama campaign certainly is familiar with the story of Soptic, despite claims by top campaign aides that they're not as they tried to make the case Wednesday that the super PAC ad had nothing to do with the campaign's work.
"They made as much money off it as they could, and they closed it down," Soptic said in that video, wearing what appears to be the same shirt he wore in the most recent ad. "It was like watching an old friend bleed to death."
This week, Soptic reemerged in the Priorities USA ad telling how his wife got sick, and later died of cancer, after he was let go at GST steel.
Asked about the spot, Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs stressed that the super PAC is not connected to the campaign.
"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," he said on MSNBC.
Under questioning, he said again: "I don't know the specifics of this person's case."
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams attacked the honesty of the ad in a written statement Tuesday.
"President Obama's allies continue to use discredited and dishonest attacks in a contemptible effort to conceal the administration's deplorable economic record. After 42 months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is clear that the president and his campaign do not have a rationale for reelection," he said.
Before the GST Steel closure, Romney left Bain in 1999 to work on the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah. There have been ongoing disputes about his involvement with Bain during that period, since he was still listed as CEO in financial documents, but the campaign has maintained he effectively left the company in 1999.
Further, Soptic's wife died in 2006, according to a Kansas City Star article from the time. This would have been several years after the plant closed down, several years after Romney left Bain and as Romney was finishing his term as Massachusetts governor.