In this ad, the National Rifle Association accuses U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) of lying about his ties to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. (NRA via YouTube)

“Bruce Braley is so slick that he can’t stick to the truth. In Washington, Braley votes for Michael Bloomberg’s extreme anti-gun agenda. But in Iowa, Braley tries to be slick and hide his connections to Bloomberg. Watch: [Braley speaking] ‘I have never met Michael Bloomberg.’ But look at this: Braley and Bloomberg both at the same event. Braley’s staff even said so. Bloomberg and Braley, working together to take away your freedom.”

— voiceover of National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund ad running in Iowa

Poor Michael Bloomberg. The Democrat-then-Republican-then-Independent former mayor of New York City has devoted part of his considerable fortune to environmental and anti-gun causes. But that has meant that Democrats running in red states have scurried to avoid any association with him.

Rep. Bruce Braley (D), who is running to fill an open Senate seat in Iowa, said during a debate with his opponent Joni Ernst (R) that he had never met Bloomberg, even though Bloomberg is featured in NRA ads attacking Braley. With phrases like “he can’t stick to the truth,” the NRA all but calls Rep. Bruce Braley a liar in this advertisement.

What’s going on here?

The Facts

Back in 2010, Braley spoke at an event sponsored by No Labels, a nonpartisan group which seeks to urge politicians to move beyond party labels to focus on pressing issues. After he spoke, his office issued a news release (featured in the NRA ad) that noted that Braley, who spoke of growing up in a bipartisan household, was  “joined by a bipartisan group of current and former elected officials, including Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I), among others.”

But there’s no evidence that Braley and Bloomberg were there at the same time, let alone met. The video of the event shows that Braley spoke for about five minutes during the morning session, while Bloomberg appeared as part of an afternoon panel hours later. Busy politicians generally don’t hang out at conferences such as this, but simply show up when scheduled.

The NRA skates past this choreography by using weasel words – they were “both at the same event” and “look at this” — while juxtaposing a photograph of Bloomberg during his panel with a photograph of Braley speaking. There is a small rip between the photographs, framed by an American flag, so a casual viewer might think it is a single photograph. (The Fact Checker had to pause the video to notice the rip, as the two photos only appear for three seconds in the 30-second ad.)

The Braley staff points to two tweets that they say show that Braley and Bloomberg did not cross paths that day — one from Sarah Benzing, Bruce’s current campaign manager and former chief of staff, and the other from Matt Canter, who was staffing Gillibrand that day

“The intent of the ad is to tell Iowa voters Braley and Bloomberg share the same views and support the same extremist gun control measures,” said NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam, who acknowledged that the photos were taken separately.“Our charge is that they are allied, they were at the same event, and Braley is slick.”

Certainly, the NRA has a serious policy dispute with Braley, who earns an “F” rating from the NRA. He is also running against a proud gun owner who displays her weapon in her ads, vowing to unload on Obamacare.

The Pinocchio Test

The NRA has no idea whether Bloomberg and Braley ever met, but this ad certainly suggests that Braley is lying when he says had never did. Ironically, the only evidence the NRA can cite is that both men, hours apart, attended a meeting designed to break down barriers between people with different political views. That’s pretty slick — and worthy of Three Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

 


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