The Obama campaign has spent the last day and a half ducking questions about Joe Soptic, the steelworker featured in the Priorities USA attack ad. Campaign adviser Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Obama campaign spokeswomen Stephanie Cutter and Jen Psaki have gone so far as to claim they don’t know enough about the specifics of the Soptic story to comment on it. Well, it turns out the Obama campaign should actually be pretty familiar with the specifics — because they’ve used Soptic in their own campaign commercials and even set up conference calls between him and reporters. Politico reports:
Soptic, laid off from Bain Capital-owned GST Steel, stars in a Priorities USA Action spot this week in which he tells of how his wife died without health insurance after he lost his job. Soptic also appeared, wearing what appears to be an identical shirt, in a May television ad for the Obama campaign. …[Stephanie] Cutter hosted an Obama campaign conference call in May in which Soptic told reporters the very story featured in the Priorities spot.
Both the campaign and the Priorities USA Action said there was no coordination about Soptic’s appearances. In the campaign’s ad, Soptic speaks only about the plant. In the Priorities spot, he tells the personal story he relayed during the Obama campaign conference call.
It doesn’t matter that the Obama campaign isn’t “officially” connected to the Priorities USA ad. If the campaign has featured the same former GST Steel worker in its own ad, and set up conference calls for him, then a) staffers obviously know much more about his story than they have let on; and b) they have a responsibility to respond to questions about it. If someone is featured in a presidential campaign commercial, it means the campaign is vouching for this person and he has likely been vetted in some capacity. Obama and his team passed Joe Soptic off as a trustworthy source on multiple occasions, and they should have to answer for contradictions or discrepancies in his story.