Dem's hit Whalen campaign on homewrecker comment, Whalen campaign counter-punches with charge of Herseth ducking debates

After the course of less than a week, the sleepy little race that was the South Dakota Congressional Campaign has gone to an intense flame war between the two political camps.

If you recall, the activity started with the Whalen campaign asking several of the SD Bloggers about information contained in the Herseth Wikipedia profile. Namely about her supposedly being pregnant, having relations with a staffer, etc. As I noted in this post, I indicated that I couldn't identify any truth to it, nor the source, so I considered it all scurrilous B.S.

Mt. Blogmore also picked up on it, and took issue with the Whalen Campaign Manager Lee Breard referring to Herseth as a "Home Wrecker."

Before you say it, no, that would not have been my choice of words. And Kevin Woster of the Rapid City Journal would probably concur with that thought. In fact, Kevin chronicled some of the first of the inter-campaign exchange that was starting on it. In his own defense, Lee's explanation is that referring to her as a homewrecker was intended to be more of an absurd illustration of the Wikipedia claims than to be taken as an accusation. And needless to say, the Dem's weren't buying it:
Breard said his own "home-wrecker" comment was intended to emphasize the extreme nature of the Wikpedia claims.

"That was just a follow up to how outlandish the quotes of her being pregnant and changing to pro-life were," Breard said.

He maintains that it wasn't trying to assail Herseth's character.

"No, that was just showing how serious I took the statements on Wikipedia," he said. "I thought it was all ridiculous."

Herseth spokesman Russ Levsen doesn't buy it. Levsen said Sunday that it was clear that Breard was intentionally trying to circulate false rumors to damage Herseth's reputation.
Shortly thereafter, The South Dakota Democratic Party keying off of that comment started a barrage on Whalen's campaign here, and through a press release (sorry, not yet posted on their website) issued today notes:
On Friday afternoon, the Rapid City Journal’s blog broke a remarkable story about Bruce Whalen’s campaign e-mailing reporters with charges that Stephanie Herseth was pregnant and engaged to her Chief of Staff, citing a website that allows anyone to post anything anonymously. The campaign also added its own lie that falsely accused Herseth of committing adultery.

When questioned by Rapid City Journal reporter Kevin Woster in a column printed today, Whalen Campaign Manager Lee Breard offered an illogical and unlikely defense for his unacceptable actions. Breard said he was tricked by the spurious claims on the Internet, and that his additional adultery charge was simply meant to show that he thought the other claims were "ridiculous." Caught red handed, Breard made up a story as incredible as his allegations about Herseth

The South Dakota Democratic Party calls for a Whalen to publicly apologize to Herseth, and to fire his campaign manager for both the lies and the cover up. The Party also calls on the South Dakota Republican Party to denounce this kind of activity.
About the same time as the Dem's geared up to start hitting back, the Whalen campaign changed gears and sent out a release on Herseth being "too busy" to debate.

I've brought this one up before, and at least at the moment, it looks like this issue could be one of the first challenges to gain a little traction on the congresswoman.

Here's what the Whalen campaign had to say about it (sorry, no link here either):
Representative Herseth is quick to point out her family’s political history in South Dakota and the tradition of family members holding office, but she refuses to join in the time honored South Dakota tradition of candidate debates at premiere public events like the Dakotafest Farm Show and the South Dakota State Fair.

Recently, Rep. Herseth’s office announced that she would not be participating in a debate with U.S. House candidate Bruce Whalen at the Dakotafest Farm Show in Mitchell. Her office cited scheduling conflicts as her reason for not being able to attend.

In response to Herseth’s announcement, Whalen stated, “I think the voters of South Dakota are extremely disappointed that Ms. Herseth will not show up and discuss matters important to the State. These events allow candidates to express their viewpoints on particular issues and explain their philosophical differences in a public venue.”

Rep. Herseth was asked to move the debate to Wednesday the 16th when she did agree to be on a farm panel at Dakotafest and she still refused to debate. “I will be at the Farm Panel at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning prepared to debate Miss. Herseth and I will be at the debate Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. to talk with the gathered people and panel about issues important to South Dakota. I challenge Miss. Herseth to join me. What could be more important than the Congressional Debate at Dakotafest?” Said Whalen Republican Candidate for U.S. Congress

“Governor Round and Jack Billion have agreed to several joint appearances or debates. It is only fair that the voters would get the same chance to see their U.S. Representative candidates debate. I challenge Miss. Herseth to debate me on the issues pressing in South Dakota at the Sioux Empire Fair and every public event where we will both be present from now until Nov. 7th.”

Mr. Whalen will be at the following events over the next two months in South Dakota and ready to Debate Miss. Herseth: Sioux Empire Fair, Turner County Fair, Brown County Fair, Dakotafest, Riverboat Days, Central States Fair, Rose Bud Pow Wow, South Dakota State Fair, Gypsy Days, and many others.

What hasn’t yet been reported is that Ms. Herseth is also ducking the traditional congressional debate at the South Dakota State Fair. This is nothing new for Rep. Herseth as it was only two years ago that she ducked a debate with then-candidate Larry Diedrich at the South Dakota State Fair.

With an August recess being a tradition for lawmakers in Washington, and Dakotafest and the State Fair being annual events, citing scheduling conflicts seems to be a flimsy excuse for not showing up to participate in debates that have been confirmed for over two months and have been a tradition in South Dakota for generations.

“Ms. Herseth is quick to point out her farm background, yet she fails to show up and debate the issues in front of the men and women who actually raise the cattle and grow the crops,” Whalen stated. “Instead, she would rather talk to them at staged events.”

“Maybe she doesn’t want to explain to all the farmers and ranchers in attendance that she can’t get drought aid in the House, while the Senate seems to pass it each and every time,” Whalen added.

When thousands upon thousands of South Dakotans make their traditional trips to Mitchell and Huron, they will miss the venue they have always enjoyed – the traditional Congressional debate.
(BTW, Good point that she bagged out on Larry Diedrich two years ago.) I'm sure Herseth would have grumbled if Janklow had done the same to her in 2002.

Anyway, the congressional race is ratcheting up a few notches as we move into the final stretch, and that September 1 starting date that most campaigns consider to be the time to boost up their intensity and visibility.

And the volume is only going to keep increasing.


mhs said…
What a gaff. If Whalen wants to be taken seriously, he needs to fire Breard immediately. They've given Steffie a free pass to ignore them as a fringe candidacy, not debate, etc. etc.

Hopefully, some party leaders will get to Whalen immediately on damage control. If they do a good job, heck, like they say in Hollywood, "any publicity is good publicity". Anything getting his name in the news right now can't hurt.

To be in public office, you need to lead and make hard decisions, here's Whalen's chance to look like a leader.
Anonymous said…

I would hardly call that a counter punch...more like a duck and jive. Whalen's team really has to work on its message development. A campaign manager can't send a doozy of an email like that and then expect people to care about some debates that nobody is going to pay atttention to.

Let's be honest, do you really think Mr. Whalen can look anything but bad next to Congresswoman Herseth?

Sitting on stage repeating I am "pro-life" is not the makings of a good debate. You can scream "pro-life" all you want but it doesn't mean a hill of beans when it comes to our renewable energy policy.

Does he really want to discuss real policy with her?
Anonymous said…
Sitting on stage repeating I am "pro-life" is not the makings of a good debate...

Worked for Latrell.

This is sad PP. Counter punch, what a joke. What does she have to gain OR lose in debating Whalen? Nothing in both respects. It's a stategic non-event for her. This things was over the minute my GOP couldn't get any credible candidate to run. I know you don't want to admit it PP but the phat lady has sung on this one.
Anonymous said…
My only question is did Randy Frederick approve of the email? What did he know, when did he know it? This stinks of that large man from Hayti. It's that smart of a political tactic. Hell, he probably came up the fabulous counter-punch.
Anonymous said…
Let's talk policy and how steffi voted against ANWR.

Steffi is making it more expensive for farmers to put diesel fuel in their combines and fertilizer on their fields.

I hope farmers are thinking about steffi and her failure to support good energy policies when they fill their combines up...

Ooh that's won't have to get their combines out this year because of the drought. And what is Steffi doing take care of that: touring drought ridden areas and feeling the pain. Kinda like Daschle and his 67 er..66 county tour every year.

She should be trying to convince the GOP majority in the house to pass drought relief. If she is such a bridge builder let's see her get that done.

But in the end it won't matter because Steffi voted for a sham tax deductibility bill then voted to raise our farmers taxes by preventing them from deducting sales tax on federal income tax.

It reminds me of the John Kerry, "I was against the war before I was for the war then I was against the war" crap.

At least with Bruce we could have another GOP vote instead with Steffi all we get is GOP lite.
Anonymous said…
Steffie is a lame duck, she can't get us farmers any help with the drought.

Step up I want to hear the debate.
Anonymous said…

Just when are the farmers going to benefit from the oil from ANWR? Is it going to be flowing our way anytime soon? If you knew any thing about oil development, you would know it won't be anytime soon and it flow won't last that long.

So, you want another GOP vote to run up bigger deficits, cut funding for student loans, ignore the healthcare crisis, develop medicare presciption drug plans that cost the taxpayers billions and does little to control costs and last but certainly not least, supports W in cutting emergency drought funding. Yes, we surely need that.

You obviously don't approve of Rep. Herseth tour drought stricken areas. Do you also dissapprove of Governor Rounds an Sentor Thune doing the same thing? What has Governor Rounds done other then get on TV and ask us to pray. Gee, I bet the God fearing farmers and ranchers never thought about that. I wonder what they were doing in Church every Sunday for the last year...maybe they were praying that the Vikings would win the super bowl.

Tell me 10:46, what are your thoughts on the renewal of the Farm Bill. What would you keep, scrap, add? Let's debat!
Max Power said…
This is pretty sad, Pat. I figured you would call Whalen and Beard on the low blow that this stunt was. I realize you support Whalen over Herseth, but can anyone besides Steve Sibson really spin this as some sort of equal flame war.

Whalen's campaign made a huge error of judgment. Now they are being called to account for that. And Beard's "excuse" stinks to high heaven. He called Herseth a homewrecker based on a blatant falsehood. That is the real, no, only story here.

Your effort to make this about debates is weak. Don't be an apologist for these guys.

I certainly hope your ad revenue isn't influencing your judgment.
JB said…
As noted in first of your posts to try to shift the blame from Whalen on this issue, Herseth has agreed to three debates so far. Whalen has agreed to one. Looks like a little revisionist history to try to cover up for his gaffe.

And if you really want debates, aren't you a little concerned that Whalen has given Herseth the perfect out in terms of debates? What service is it to the voters to have some wing nut screaming "you're a homewrecker! you're pregnent! i'm pro-life!"

I am sure that if he wasn't paying you, you'd be screaming about what he did, not trying to change the subject.
PP said…
Max, how is noting the 5 separate articles (including my own) noting that the pregnancy rumor was crap, and the "home wrecker" comment was a bad thing pandering to an advertiser?

And you make it sound as if I should have ignored the fact the Whalen campaign came out with the release on Herseth ducking debates.

Or should I have written 6 separate articles on the entire thing, so you could count 'six bad and one good'?
Max Power said…
I'm not saying you weren't exposing it, but you referred to "homewrecker" as not being your choice of words.

But it is false. It is a cheap, false, ad hominum attack.

Instead of recognizing that (not being your choice of words isn't calling it false), you noted Beard's preposterous explanation and wrote something like "but the Dems weren't buing it."

I guess I'd like to know if you believe Lee's claim that he was calling Herseth a homewrecker to show how crazy the Wikipedia story was, or if you recognize that is a bunch of BS.

I understand this is bad for your guy, but it is worthy of denouncing. It's straight up dirty politics. And executed poorly to boot.

So far, I haven't read any criticism of Whalen's campaign from you. You stated the pregnancy rumor was crap, but you haven't opined on the Whalen campaign's strategy. That is what is really at issue at this point.
Anonymous said…
PP - you said "homewrecker" would not have been your choice of words.

What would you have chosen? "Homewrecker" obviously implies that Herseth and her boyfriend had some sort of relationship during his marriage.
Woster pointed out that her boyfriend was divorced before they knew each other, and a post on blogmore pointed to an articles -- -- that showed that he had dated at least one other person before he and Herseth started dating.

By saying it "would not have been my choice of words," you imply that the underlying lie lobbed by the Whalen Campaign is true; your only objection being that you think the term used was inappropriate.

While we all agree (except Breard and Whalen, I guess) that that particular word is over the top, the really pathetic thing is that they made such a spurrious claim that is not based in fact. And you repeat that claim by saying your objection is with the "choice of words." In essence, you assert that the substance is true.

So let's be clear -- what about the substance? You have chosen to delete comments about public official's personal lives -- even if you know them to be true -- because you don't think it appropriate. You would certainly object if another blogger printed rumors about John Thune or Mike Rounds not based in fact. Yet here, you're not only willing to print Whalen's "homewreker" lie, you affirmatively give it credibility.

So set the record straight -- do you have any facts to dispute the assertion made by Woster, or in the article linked to on blogmore (and cited above)? If not, how can you accuse Herseth of being a "homewrecker?"

If you have facts, print them. Otherwise, saying you only disagree with the terminiology makes you guilty of spreading the kind of rumors and lies that you have purported to oppose.
PP said…
Anon 7:46 you are so full of poop, you sound ridiculous.

If you looked you might be able to read that I found the wikipedia claims as garbage (and was out with it at least a day before the RCJ), and I certainly did not and do not support any claim of her being a homewrecker.

Yes, it was a dumb thing to say, and they're now paying the price for it.

I'm sorry if my condemnations are not strong nor often enough for everyone, but I'll write what I write.

If you want something stronger, go to a Democratic blog.

If you haven't noticed, this is a Republican oriented one.
Anonymous said…
We've noticed. I bet Herseth supports the lions too.
Anonymous said…
I agree with 7:47pm -- this was over when Randy Frederick failed to recruit a credible candidate.

And now we're seeing what happens when we fail to recruit a credible candidate and let them go with out any guidance or support. Bruce Whalen is making a joke out of our party. He even makes the losers the Dems used to nominate against Thune look credible (can anyone even remember their names?).

This might have been over the minute we failed to recruit someone credible, but the longer we stand by this guy and say that this was just a simple mistake, the more we make our entire party look petty and silly. I know I'm breaking Reagan's 11th Commandment when I say it - but Whalen is a truly horrible nominee.
Anonymous said…
"not my choice of words" was a poor choice of words.

It does make it sound like you support the underlying claim and disagree only with their "choice of words."

But you've made it clear that you beleive it was a dumb thing to say and that you agree that all of the allegations made in the e-mail were false. While I understand the objections of the "choice of word" guys above, I'm willing to take you at your word. For me, at least, that's the end of it.

I would like to get your thoughts though, as to what happened. For the life of me, I can't imagine why any campaign would do something so petty and stupid. Did they really think this was a good idea? You know them, pp, how about an interview with the campaign manager?
Anonymous said…
I would be interested in how the Whalen campaign heard about this so quickly.

People don't check Wikipedia every day do they?

Did the person that changed Wikipedia alert Whalen's campaign? Did that person alert you Pat? Or did you hear of the Wikipedia change through Lee Bear's mass email to bloggers and reporters?

I just find it hard to believe the Wiki entry was changed and less than 24 hours later, Beard (who states he doesn't really understand Wikipedia) is emailing people about it.

It smells fishy, but I don't have any idea what the chain of events was.
Rehash of comments posted here...Courtesy of Mike Quinlivan

Anon- PP, I do believe that Whalen stepped over the lines, why don't you just say so

PP: You sir, are a poopyhead

Anon- No seriously Pat, Whalen sucks so bad he could put Jenna Jameson to shame. Why don't you just say that he sucks?

PP: Cause I am a Republican...Mr. Poophead

Anonymous Loser: Hey, let’s talk Policy, like how Herseth is a big ole commie, who likes to spend money and abort babies while donating money to Nambla.

Other Anon- Wait, Rounds and Thune and Johnson are advocating the same policy as Herseth.

Anon Loser- LALALALALALAL!!! Ears plugged!!!!!!
PP said…
Mike -


Thanks for the laugh.
Mike Quinlivan said…
No prob, Bro
Anonymous said…
Wouldn't it make more sense for the Whalen campaign to focus on Whalen's strengths instead of attacking Herseth - especially when it's outrageous lies? But if Whalen doesn't have any strengths to cite, maybe their only option is to operate in an attack mode.
Chris Madsen said…
So, let's review what we have learned from this little situation:
1. Wikipedia may not be the most reliable source of information.
2. Don't email anything to anyone who you do not personally trust implicitly unless you are prepared to see what you wrote in print in the Argus Leader.

Is there another point?

If I was riding on Stephanie's poll numbers right now, I wouldn't bother with this one.
Ike said…
Chris, I agree. Frankly, I don't think campaign workers have the time, right now, to be putting stupid stuff on Wiki. And there is no benefit to be gained - quite honestly. So some moron out there, more than likely a pimply 15 yr old with more heart than brains, thought he was cute and put it out there. ok. it's now gone. get over it and on to something else.
been there said…
Besides, why would a Whalen supporter make the ridiculous claim that she is now magically pro-life? I could understand saying she is pregnant, which could start all sorts of negative gossip, but the pro-life part makes no sense.
K said…
I'm surprise you're so pro-debate, PP. Much like your advice on the candidate surveys, wouldn't you tell one of your candidates who had nothing to gain from debating a barely-known opponent to duck them as long as possible?
Anonymous said…
These claims have merit to them, and perhaps people should be asking Ms. Herseth to present proof disproving them, which she has not proved conclusively.

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