Former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford’s anticipated run for the New York Senate seat currently held by Kirsten Gillibrand has some progressive groups up in arms. One of them, Brave New Films, is attempting to drum up opposition to a Ford candidacy through a video accusing Ford of being “Ann Coulter’s favorite Democrat.”
Well, for starters, he’s a staunch opponent of abortion rights. He also disapproves of marriage equality for gay couples, opposes public safety laws to keep guns off the streets, and blames immigrants for America’s problems. Doesn’t sound like much of a New Yorker, does he?
In their possible fight for US Senate, it’s increasingly a duel of Internet clips between Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford — a battle that has Democrats wondering whether the dispute will only help Republicans. NY1’s Josh Robin filed the following report.
They were composed together at a Haiti vigil in Midtown Wednesday evening. But otherwise, it’s grown increasingly contentious between Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Harold Ford Junior, the former Tennessee Congressman who, so far, is only eyeing her seat.
Mostly, the rumbling is done by surrogates and allies for Gillibrand, a Los Angeles film company that has made similar attacks on Senator John McCain.
A two-minute video was partially funded by abortion rights groups and not Gillibrand’s help, a spokesman says. It takes swipes at Ford’s votes in congress, including a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and restrictions on late-term abortions.
Now a New York resident, Ford says he’s in favor of same-sex marriage and is playing up his support for abortion.
His spokesman dismissed the film as fictional, and out of “a high school film class.”
Ford is linking to his own clips, featuring praise by President Barack Obama, when he ran for the US Senate in Tennessee four years ago.
Those clips are meant to blunt Obama’s support in the race against Gillibrand who’s trying to make sure she coasts through the Democratic primary.
Meanwhile, Governor David Paterson is backing Gillibrand while knocking Obama’s attempts to clear the field for her, just as the White House tried doing in the governor’s race.
“The White House is on solid ground when they’re trying to protect the interest of the Democratic party. I feel that Senator Gillibrand will defeat any Republican that they put up against her. As a matter of fact, they can’t even find a Republican,” Paterson said.
Other party activists are agreeing with the governor.
Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic party committeeman, is neutral in the race and has warm words for both candidates, but not those fearing competition.
“You know, we heard that type of talk in 2008 in the Obama-Clinton primary. Yet as a result, thousands of more Democrats were registered, hundreds of thousands of more Democrats were registered. Democratic enthusiasm was created and activated. And I think that’s what we have to focus on,” Zimmerman said.
So far, Ford has yet to split the Democratic establishment. At a convention Thursday of African-American leaders sponsored by Reverend Jesse Jackson, his candidacy barely caused a ripple.
“I think anyone is presumptuous to just think because you show, you get our vote. That’s not the way it works in America and it’s certainly not the way it works in New York,” said Suzan Johnson Cook of the Wall Street Ministry.
Three left-leaning groups have produced the above video portraying ex-Rep. Harold Ford Jr., who is exploring the possibility that he will run a primary against Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, as an anti-choice, pro-Republican individual. At one point, he is shown standing in front of a Confederate flag.
NARAL, Planned Parenthood and Make the Road New York co-produced this montage, which shows Ford during television interviews and in campaign commercials. A representative of NARAL said it was underwritten because Ford is attempting to “re-write history.”
“Harold Ford claims others are falsifying his record in public life. It’s clear in this video that Harold Ford is self-proclaimed pro-life and does not reflect the values of New York voters,” said M. Tracey Brooks, the head of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York.
Davidson Goldin, a spokesman for Ford, called the video “distorting” and stressed that if he ran and were elected, Ford would serve as an “independent Democrat.” He likened Ford’s positions on some issues to those of Bill Clinton and Chuck Schumer, and sent a video of Barack Obama speaking in favor of Ford.
“Harold Ford is and always has been a supporter of abortion rights and any suggestion otherwise is a baseless attempt to distort his record, and any group that truly supports abortion rights should have enough self-respect not to resort to lying in an effort to protect an unelected senator,” Goldin went on to charge. Ford has had the support of pro-choice groups in the past, but NARAL issued a statement saying his voting record was not consistent.
“And unlike Kirsten Gillibrand, who uses guns the way some people use Ambien and received an A rating from the NRA, Harold has never owned a gun and received a C rating from the NRA. That speaks for itself,” Goldin said.
Former Congressman Harold Ford Jr. has yet to make official a primary bid against Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in New York. But by raising his hand and expressing interest, he has unleashed a torrent of opposition among liberal Democrats, bloggers and activists who are mining his every quote. Never mind that the New York media have yet to move into full-blown, old-style tabloid gear, either.
So far, the latest is a Web video put out by Brave New Films and Robert Greenwald, which clips together interviews and TV appearances Mr. Ford gave (mainly on Fox News) during his years as a member of the House from Memphis and when he ran in his home state of Tennessee for the United States Senate in 2006. The video calls him “Ann Coulter’s favorite Democrat” and runs through his previously stated positions on gun rights, abortion, former President Bush’s policies on military tribunals and warrantless wiretapping.
In addition to the new video, lots of other tidbits of news have been pouring (or spewing) forth about a potential Ford candidacy in his newly found environs of Manhattan (or perhaps Sag Harbor).
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who, as we all know, loves to stay in the thick of things and be wooed for his endorsement, has invited Mr. Ford to travel with him to Haiti. Our colleague Michael Barbaro writes of the invitation — which might have been extended to Ms. Gillibrand as well — at our sib-blog, City Room.
Of course all these developments follow Mr. Ford’s interview with Mr. Barbaro earlier this week. Just search Harold Ford’s name on Twitter, and you’ll understand that swaggering New Yorkers haven’t stopped mocking the lifestyle facts he divulged this week.
That interview was a lesson in what not to say, the Tweeting furies have declared. To prove you’re a New Yorker, you don’t brag about helicopter flyovers that only let your tail rotor touch down on Staten Island or admit that you don’t ride the Lex Line ’cause it’s too cold to walk to the subway. (By the way, it is generally the quickest route from offices in lower Manhattan or home in the Flatiron district to any of the TV studios where screen-time punditry awaits. Of course, not if you’re traveling from Sag Harbor, but that’s another transportation nightmare.)
At least Mr. Ford hasn’t wondered aloud, as Al Gore once did during an introductory campaign visit to New York years before 2000, what a bialy was! The tabs had a field day.
That was way back then, when Ed Koch was mayor and would promote his favorite places to buy your morning bialy or bagel. Before mayors began cracking down on things like butter and salt.
But we digress. The point being New Yorkers are dogged defenders of the code. It’s a test.
They’re not alone. given that this is a statewide race, wait’ll upstate New Yorkers test his pronunciations of scenic places like, say, Skaneateles.
Kirsten Gillibrand has taken her lumps in shifting to the left, but that’s nothing to the pounding Harold Ford is facing, thanks to YouTube and his own penchant for seeking the limelight.
Take the mashup (below — “Anne Coulter’s Favorite Democrat!”) that hit the Internet yesterday from Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films, which mocked John McCain to great effect in 2008.
In fact, there is so much video evidence out there of Ford’s less-than-New York Democratic positions, the liberal-leaning Media Matters has dubbed the Tennessean’s do-si-do to the left a “Reverse Romney,” and have started a “fact check” on him.