Lieberman Assails Lamont Over Supporter's Blog Post
Thursday, August 3, 2006
BRIDGEPORT, Conn., Aug. 2 -- The bitter Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut erupted in fresh controversy Wednesday over a doctored photo of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) in blackface that was posted by a blogger who has been an influential promoter of challenger Ned Lamont.
Lieberman angrily demanded that Lamont denounce the action and sever all ties with Jane Hamsher, the founder of the Web log Firedoglake, who posted the photo on another blog, HuffingtonPost.com. She travels with the campaign along with other bloggers. She is not on the campaign staff but has actively promoted Lamont's candidacy and helped raise money for him through her blog.
The photo, showing former president Bill Clinton in dark glasses and Lieberman in blackface, appeared early Wednesday, accompanied by a dispatch attacking Lieberman, his supporters and some news organizations. There was no mention of the photo in the dispatch, and the photo later was removed. But the two campaigns heatedly traded charges as the day progressed.
The controversy came on a day when Lamont campaigned with two of the most prominent African American politicians in the country, Jesse L. Jackson and Al Sharpton. The intersection of events focused attention on two critical aspects of the Senate primary fight: the influence of the bloggers on Lamont's antiwar candidacy and the importance of the black vote in determining the outcome on Tuesday.
Lieberman responded indignantly after the photo posting was revealed. "This is one of the most disgusting and hurtful images that has been used in American history, it's deeply offensive to people of all colors, and it has absolutely no place in the political arena today," he said in a statement issued by his campaign.
Lieberman called on Lamont to ban Hamsher from traveling with the campaign, refuse to take any money raised by Hamsher and remove any links to her postings on his Web site.
Lamont brushed past reporters Wednesday night in Bridgeport, saying: "I don't know anything about the blogs. I'm not responsible for those. I have no comment on them."
Lamont spokeswoman Liz Dupont-Diehl tried to distance the campaign from the photo and said campaign manager Tom Swan had called Hamsher and asked that the picture be taken off the blog. "This was not the campaign's doing," she said. "We find it offensive and inappropriate. We asked that it be taken down, and it was."
But Dupont-Diehl said the campaign will not bow to the Lieberman campaign's demand that Lamont cut any ties with Hamsher. "She's not part of the campaign staff," Dupont-Diehl said. "She's an independent blogger covering the race."
She called it "an isolated, nonrepresentative incident" and added: "Ned has been committed to affirmative action and equality. He's been more active in achieving those goals than many people."
Lieberman spokesman Dan Gerstein scoffed at the Lamont campaign's effort to separate the candidate from Hamsher and her posting.
While noting that Hamsher is not a paid staffer, Gerstein argued that she has been an integral part of the Lamont operation. "She's been an active part of their campaign," he said. "She travels with him, she's raised money for them and has become the primary mouthpiece for him in the blogosphere."
Hamsher did not return a message left on her cellphone.
Arianna Huffington, the founder of HuffingtonPost.com, said that no one from the Web site has asked for the photo to be removed. "We did not ask her, nor would we have asked her," she said. "It was a satirical point she made in the picture, and there was nothing in the text that was racist, and there is nothing about Jane that is racist."
Lieberman also has pressed Lamont recently to explain his decision to resign from the Round Hill Club in Greenwich. Lamont told the New York Times he quit the club because of its lack of diversity, but Lieberman has demanded an explanation of why he did not resign earlier.
Competition for the African American vote has intensified in the campaign's closing days. Lieberman's campaign hopes that Clinton's appearance will help rally support for the incumbent in the black community. But, campaigning in Bridgeport on Wednesday night, Sharpton urged African Americans to back Lamont as a way of penalizing Lieberman for supporting Bush.
"Tuesday night the voters of Connecticut have the first national opportunity to say to the world that we are not the cheerleaders of George Bush," Sharpton said.
Political researcher Zachary A. Goldfarb contributed to this report.