One of the darkest rumors hovering over the 2018 election season in South Carolina involves Katie Arrington – the Republican nominee for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district (map).
Arrington, 47, made national news back in the spring when she upset incumbent GOP congressman Mark Sanford in the primary election for this staunchly GOP seat. Days later, she made national news again – this time as the victim of a car crash that nearly killed her.
Arrington’s injuries from this crash were so serious that many GOP operatives were convinced she would have to bow out of the race and surrender her hard-won nomination to someone else. Perhaps even to Sanford.
As we noted at the time, though, these operatives clearly had no idea who they were dealing with.
Arrington is a survivor. Strong. Fearless. Totally unrelenting. And just as she proved her (many) doubters wrong in the race against Sanford, she proved them wrong once again in bouncing back from the crash.
Within weeks, she was back on the campaign trail …
Three weeks ago, Arrington kicked off her television campaign against Democratic nominee Joe Cunningham with an advertisement entitled “Prepared.” The spot recaps the many obstacles Arrington (below) has overcome in her journey – including the crash.
“Challenges make us stronger,” Arrington said in the ad. “They prepare us.”
(Click to view)
But it was another claim made in the 30-second spot that caught the attention of Democratic operatives …
Almost immediately after Arrington’s commercial hit the airwaves, a whisper campaign was launched accusing the first-term state lawmaker of lying in the ad.
We first caught wind of this allegation late last month in a conversation with a Democratic operative, but the whisper campaign ramped up last week when two mainstream media reporters were furnished with the same information we received.
This week, a third mainstream media reporter got the same tip … and reached out to Arrington seeking comment.
Two days ago, we made a reference to Arrington’s “alleged fabrication” in an article recapping an actual fabrication contained in one of Cunningham’s television ads. Cunningham referred to himself in his introductory spot as an ocean engineer – even though he has never been licensed as such.
Is that a big deal? Not really. In fact, had the Cunningham story not been published in The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier last week, we likely would have ignored it. Of course the real news value in our report wasn’t the recapitulation of Cunningham’s “little lie,” it was a reference to Arrington’s alleged tall tale.
“Several sources close to the Cunningham campaign have been whispering about an alleged fabrication they have uncovered in one of Arrington’s television spots – a lie they insist is far worse than the one Cunningham got caught telling,” we wrote.[su_dominion_video_scb]
Shortly after our article ran, we heard from several of our Democratic friends … all of whom repeated the same whisper.
So … what was the whisper? What was Arrington’s “big lie?” Her “alleged fabrication?”
Here it is …
She lied about surviving breast cancer.
That’s right … according to these operatives, Katie Arrington lied in her television ad about surviving breast cancer.
Let that sink in for a moment …
And so it came to pass that scarcely three weeks after the first whispers landed on our radar, the “Arrington faked breast cancer” rumor became a full-fledged cacophony – with politicos of all stripes lighting up our switchboard asking if we had heard about it … if it was true … and if we planned on writing about it.
And as noted above, mainstream media reporters were also feverishly chasing the tip … trying to ascertain how they could go about verifying or debunking such a seismic, potentially career-ending allegation.
(Click to view)
Is the rumor true? By now you have probably guessed the answer to that question ….
No. It is not true. In fact, it is demonstrably false. Without getting too personal about the proofs provided, Arrington’s campaign supplied this news site with irrefutable evidence in support of the breast cancer survivor claim made in her television ad.
Not surprisingly, the campaign also provided us with a righteously indignant response to what is arguably the basest, vilest, most deplorable political smear South Carolina politics has seen … perhaps ever.
“The Democrats have sunk to a new low,” Arrington campaign manager Michael Mulé said in a statement referencing the smear. “This is desperate and pure evil. It disrespects every person in the district and is gutter politics at its worst. If it is in fact Joe’s campaign pushing this despicable lie, unfortunately I wouldn’t be surprised considering who is running the campaign.”
To be clear: We have no evidence to suggest Cunningham or any member of his campaign organization were involved in spreading this rumor. While it is true no fewer than three of the Democratic operatives who shared their knowledge of the smear are closely tied to a Cunningham strategist, that doesn’t necessarily prove a point of origin.
Whoever’s fingerprints were ever on this particular political hatchet – they were removed long before it got dropped into our laps.
But still …. cui bono? Is there anyone other than Cunningham who benefits from the spread of such a “malignant” rumor?
Mulé told us Arrington referenced her battle with breast cancer in the ad because it was something people who have overcome life-threatening ailments could relate to. When reporters exposed to the rumor first began asking questions, Arrington was initially reluctant to “tempt fate” by providing too many details of her story.
“Survivors understand that hesitation,” Mulé told us.
As the rumor spread, though, Arrington decided it was time to definitively debunk her shadowy accusers.
To be fair, her initial reluctance to put down this smear may have helped fan the flames of those spreading the falsehood, but Mulé quickly – and correctly – turned the blame for that back around on those spreading the rumor in the first place.
“No one should ever have to dignify this kind of attack,” he told us. “Ever.”
We concur …
It is sick that someone would even think to attack a candidate over something like this, let alone actually do it. But in our increasingly tribal political climate … we are not surprised.
Democrats have made this congressional seat their top takeover target in the Palmetto State, and it appears as though they are willing to do anything to accomplish that objective. Even falsely accusing a woman of faking breast cancer.
Our view? They picked the wrong girl to pick a fight with …
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