State News

Hagan demands Dole take down ad on faith

Posted October 29, 2008 12:17 p.m. EDT
Updated October 29, 2008 6:23 p.m. EDT

— Democratic Senate candidate Kay Hagan angrily demanded Wednesday that U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole stop airing a new ad that questions Hagan's ties to an atheist political group, calling the spot a slanderous and pathetic attempt to maintain political power.

"I am absolutely outraged. How could she go this low?" Hagan said, calling the ad "despicable."

Hagan's attorneys sent a cease-and-desist order to Dole's campaign, saying the "libelous" ad should come down within 24 hours. The order promised legal action if the ad stays on the air.

A Dole campaign spokesman said they had no plans to remove the ad from the air.

“Every word is true, and they know it,” spokesman Dan McLagan said. “This ad questions her judgment.

"Clearly, the Hagan folks are panicked that they got caught going to a fund-raiser with a group that the vast majority of North Carolinians would find objectionable."

Dole's ad questions why Hagan would attend a September fund-raiser at the Boston home of activist Woody Kaplan, who serves as an adviser to the Godless Americans Political Action Committee. The group mobilizes atheists to emphasize the separation of church and state and other issues.

Hagan, who teaches Sunday school and is an elder at her Presbyterian church in Greensboro, said the fund-raiser was hosted by more than 40 people, including U.S. Sen. John Kerry.

"Let's talk to Elizabeth Dole. Ask her, does she vet every supporter on their religious faith, their religious beliefs?" she said. "I am a Christian, and I am proud of that fact."

Dole's ad comes as a new Associated Press-GfK poll shows Hagan with a slight advantage over Dole, 47 percent to 43 percent. The poll was conducted Oct. 22-26 and included 601 likely voters. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

A WRAL News poll released Wednesday showed Dole holding a 46 to 42 percent lead, with 9 percent of voters still undecided.

The 30-second television spot shows clips of some members of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee talking about some of their goals, such as taking "under God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance and removing "In God We Trust" from money.

"Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?" the narrator says in the ad.

The video ends by showing a picture of Hagan while another woman, Godless Americans PAC executive director Ellen Johnson, declares in the background, "There is no God."

McLagan said the end of the ad was not misleading, arguing the woman's voice is clearly not the Democratic lawmaker. He said the spot does not question Hagan's faith, only why she would associate with a group with an atheist agenda.

"The concern is that she's going to support judges that have the same world view that she's taking money from or oppose judges who have the opposite" world view, he said.

Hagan's campaign "went to great pains" to keep the identities of the event's sponsors a secret, McLagan said.

"What's over the top is flying all the way to Boston to attend a fund-raiser hosted by members of a group whose main agenda is removing any reference to God from public life," he said.

Hagan said she had never heard of the Godless Americans PAC until Dole's campaign raised the issue prior to the event. Money raised from the event came from personal donations, not from a PAC, her campaign said.