TOPEKA — The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican candidate Roger Marshall defended Wednesday an attack ad against Democrat Barbara Bollier on abortion, gun and immigration policy that relies on aggressively edited video clips of Bollier to distort her remarks about health care, public service and honesty among politicians.
The first general election commercial released by Marshall after winning the GOP nomination in August asserted Bollier sought restrictions on firearms and included video of her saying, “I’ll work to ban them nationwide.” She uttered those six words, but did so while discussing her commitment to working in the Senate to prohibit “surprise” medical bills. The Bollier nugget relied upon by Marshall had nothing to do with guns.
“I’m leading the charge to outlaw surprise bills in Kansas,” Bollier said in her July 23 campaign ad. “And, I approve this message because in Washington, I’ll work to ban them nationwide and that will come as no surprise.”
Marshall campaign spokesman Eric Pahls said the use of snippets from Bollier’s campaign messages was acceptable because the Marshall ad began with the voice-over asking: “How would it sound if Barbara Bollier’s ads actually matched her liberal record?” He said the sentence covered fairness or ethical concerns about Marshall’s use of Bollier’s comments.
“If we were trying to be sneaky, we may have left that part out,” Pahls said. “Unlike the Bollier campaign, we actually know Kansans are smart enough to understand what they’re watching.”
Alexandra De Luca, spokeswoman for Bollier‘s campaign, said the Marshall spot made a series of false assertions.
“This ad is deceptive and actually manipulates video to put words — quite literally — into Barbara’s mouth,” De Luca said. “He can’t beat Barbara on the issues, so he misleads and distorts her record instead. It’s clear that Congressman Marshall has learned all the wrong lessons from his friends in D.C.”
Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political science professor with an archive of more than 1,100 Kansas political commercials stretching to the 1960s, said he was surprised by the tactical approach of Marshall’s commercial.
The topics commented on by Bollier in the original video of her don’t align with issues raised in the commercial aired by Marshall, Beatty said.
“This ad, in and of itself, is deceptive,” Beatty said. “It’s misleading, despite the caveat.”
Marshall, of Great Bend, represents the 1st District in the U.S. House and prevailed in the bitter Republican primary for U.S. Senate against former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and one-time plumber Bob Hamilton. Marshall, a physician endorsed by retiring Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, captured 40% of the GOP vote.
Bollier, a state senator from Mission Hills, is a former Republican who didn’t have stiff primary opposition. She won 85% of the Democratic vote in the August runoff.
Marshall has campaigned for the open Senate seat by striving to amplify conservative credentials and presenting himself as an ally of President Donald Trump. In the primary and general elections, Bollier has worked to position herself as a pragmatic moderate more interested in policy results than party labels.
The Marshall ad denouncing Bollier running in Kansas markets at a 10-day cost of about $115,000 also misappropriated Bollier’s comments about the need for bipartisanship and the value of public service.
In Bollier’s 2019 campaign announcement video, she said that as a doctor she was dedicated to working through complex problems. “The truth is as a doctor I’ve never really been about partisan labels, just problem solving, and we need more of that right now,” she said in the video.
Marshall’s campaign took a two-word slice from that message — “truth is” — and applied it to the Kansas Legislature’s consideration in 2015 of a ban on a specific abortion procedure.
In addition, his ad hijacked a fragment from a Bollier video — “it’s our responsibility” — to make a point about a state law permitting qualified children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at public colleges and universities. Bollier’s comment about responsibility addressed a politician’s duty to be honest and wasn’t about tuition rates.
“It’s our responsibility to look you in the eye and show you respect, honesty, to care for you and to care about you,” Bollier said on the video poached by Marshall.
In the 2016 Republican primary in the 1st District won by Marshall, his campaign ran a 30-second commercial designed to damage voters’ perception of incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp. The ad from Marshall featured a series of fabricated newspaper headlines that described Huelskamp in negative terms.
In response, the Hutchinson News printed this: “Here’s a real headline for Roger Marshall: His campaign ad is misleading.”