August 9th, 2012
06:14 PM ET
A television ad by Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC backing President Obama, linking Mitt Romney to a woman's death continues to dog the Obama campaign.
For the third day in a row, reporters peppered the White House and Obama campaign about the new ad, which CNN fact-checked Tuesday and found to be inaccurate.
The ad features Joe Soptic, a steelworker who was laid off from his job at a Kansas City, Missouri steel plant in 2001 after the plant was taken over and eventually shut down by Bain Capital, Romney's former company.
The campaign has not endorsed the claims in the ad, but it also has not denounced the impression the ad gives, that if Soptic had not been laid off by Bain Capital perhaps his wife might not have died from cancer.
"We had nothing to do with the ad," Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Thursday. "We can't speak to what they were trying to convey by the ad or communicate."
But Psaki did not repeat the claim she made Wednesday that members of the campaign "don’t have any knowledge of the story of the family," after it came to light that Soptic appeared on an Obama campaign conference call in May, detailing the very story he recounts in the ad. That call was hosted by deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter.
On Wednesday morning Cutter told CNN's John Berman, "I don't know the facts about when Mr. Soptic's wife got sick or the facts about his health insurance."
Soptic also appeared in an ad produced by the Obama campaign around the time of the conference call. He told CNN the campaign has asked him to attend campaign-sponsored events in support of President Obama – who he voted for in 2008 and says he will support again in November – but he has been unable to comply because of a family illness.
"No one is denying that he was in a campaign - one of our campaign ads," Psaki told reporters Thursday. "He was on a conference call telling his story, which speaks to what many, many people in this country have gone through as there have been layoffs and they've had their benefits reduced."
The Obama campaign is not responsible for the ad since campaigns, which are subject to strict disclosure guidelines under campaign finance laws, are prohibited from coordinating with super PACs, which can collect money with much less transparency. But the Romney campaign is trying to hold Obama's campaign accountable.
“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," Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement. "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. Americans deserve better – they deserve a president who’s willing to run an honest campaign and be honest about his own record. Clearly, President Obama is not that person."
While the ad has received a tremendous amount of media attention it has yet to air as part of a $20 million ad buy in battleground states by Priorities USA Action. Bill Burton, founder of the super PAC and a former Obama White House aide, told CNN Thursday the plan is still for the spot to air, but would not give particulars on where and when.
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