Swift Boater Behind New CFJ Ad

Interestingly, there had been next to no media coverage of the new Committee for Justice ad likening Sonia Sotomayor to William Ayres and claiming that she supports terrorists until Charlie Savage finally wrote about it on the NYT’s “The Caucus”.

Savage got CFJ’s executive director Curt Levey on the record defending the ad and revealing that it “was written by Chris LaCivita, who also helped create the Swift Boat Vets for Truth ads against Senator John F. Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee.”

What am I not surprised? As Savage noted:

The Swift Boat ads were riddled with unsubstantiated charges and led to a new political term for smearing a political opponent with lies: “swift-boating.”

But Levey makes no apologies for the ad or for trying to swift-boat Sotomayor while Savage does a good job of explaining the incident on which CFJ hangs its allegation that she “supports” terrorists: 

Mr. Levey acknowledged that the ad presented a “caricature,” but it defended it as “factually true.” He said it was a reference to a 1990 controversy in New York City surrounding a visit by Nelson Mandela, shortly after the South African leader’s release from nearly three decades in prison under white Apartheid rule.

As he prepared for Mr. Mandela’s visit, then-New York City Mayor David Dinkins made headlines when he spoke critically of Puerto Rican separatists who, in 1954, had stormed the United States House of Representatives and opened fire, wounding five Congressmen.

Three of those men, who were later pardoned by President Jimmy Carter, were scheduled to appear alongside Mr. Mandela at a rally in Harlem. But Mr. Dinkins called them “assassins” and said they should not be conflated with Mr. Mandela’s cause.

In response, the then-president of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, Ruben Franco, said Mr. Dinkins’ comments lacked sensitivity and a sense of history, according to a June 16, 1990, New York Times article about the incident.

“He doesn’t recognize that to many people in Puerto Rico, these are fighters for freedom and justice, for liberation, just as is Nelson Mandela, who himself advocated bearing arms,” Mr. Franco was quoted as saying.

Mr. Levey argued that it was accurate to accuse Judge Sonia Sotomayor of “supporting violent terrorists” because she was a member of the board of the legal defense fund at the time that Mr. Franco made that remark.

Mr. Levey said he had toned down the Sotomayor ad from the original proposed version, which said “defended’ instead of “supported,” because he thought that the word “defended” would misleadingly suggested that the fund represented the terrorists in court.

Mr. Levey said the goal of the ad was to be provocative in order to draw more attention to Judge Sotomayor’s ties to the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she was a board member from 1980 until she resigned to become a federal judge in 1992. He said the group had taken “radical” positions on issues like affirmative action, the death penalty, and abortion.

You know, it takes an amazing level of cluelessness to try and take credit for having “toned down” an ad which accuses a sitting federal judge and Supreme Court nominee of supporting terrorists.