N. Carolina Senate race in chaos over Dole's 'godless' ad

McClatchy NewspapersOctober 29, 2008 

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Furious about a new political ad in North Carolina that suggests she's "godless," state Sen. Kay Hagan said she'd seek a cease-and-desist order against U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole's campaign if the television spot isn't pulled in the next 24 hours.

Hagan, a Democrat from Guilford County, and Dole, the Republican incumbent, have both been engaged in a highly negative ad war over the U.S. Senate seat.

Hagan held a press conference Wednesday morning with her family and her minister in Greensboro to denounce the ad at the Presbyterian church where she is an elder and has taught Sunday school.

"Elizabeth Dole is attacking my strong Christian faith," Hagan said in a conference call with reporters, saying that Dole should be "ashamed" of herself for running such an ad.

Hagan said she was particularly upset that at the end of the ad, her face is shown with a voiceover of a woman -- not her -- saying "there is no God."

Hagan's campaign said it had delivered letters to Dole's Raleigh and Salisbury offices and her Washington, D.C., home giving the campaign 24 hours to pull the ad before they took legal recourse in court.

Dole spokesman Dan McLagan said the ad is accurate and the campaign had no intention of pulling the ad.

"Every word in the ad is true, the associations are all true, what the group stands for and wants is accurately portrayed, and the video of her is at the home of these two folks after she snuck in the back door," he said.

The ad is based on Hagan's attendance at a September fund-raiser in Boston. The event, co-hosted by about 40 people, was held at the home of the author Wendy Kaminer and her husband, Woody Kaplan.

Kaplan was on the advisory board of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee, which supports the separation of church and state, including opposition to Christmas being declared a federal holiday.

Kaplan, who gave $2,300 to Hagan, said Wednesday that the event wasn't associated with the Godless Americans, an organization he says he's not even certain exists anymore.

"It was a private group of co-hosts ... who were supporting a broad group of Democratic challengers for the U.S. Senate," Kaplan said. "This event happened to be at my house. I don't know if any those people (other co-hosts) are religious or not, whether they're Muslims, Christians, Jews or whoever. I have no idea, I never asked them when I went to their houses, and I bet you no candidate did, either."

Since August, before the event took place, Dole's campaign has been calling attention to the fund-raiser.

Hagan questioned Wednesday whether Dole vets her political contributors by religious belief.

Dole's campaign said the ad was fair game in part because Hagan has attacked Dole for being "in the pocket of big oil" just because some of her contributors work for energy companies.

"She has got some gall after $18 million that her New York and Washington friends have spent attacking Senator Dole saying all kinds of untrue and ridiculous things and to now say, "Oh, you can't talk about us and who we are raising money from.' Heavens," McLagan said.

McLagan said the Godless Americans organization wanted to strip references to God from the public arena, and U.S. senators confirm federal judges who might decide cases like that.

"The courtroom is the front lines of this effort to remove God from public discourse," McLagan said. "By her owns standards she is beholden to these folks to carry their message, or at least to carry them legislatively."

The TV ad featuring Hagan airs a comment from one the organization's leaders saying, "There was no Jesus." The announcer says "A leader of the Godless Americans PAC recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan's honor."

"Godless Americans and Kay Hagan. She hid from cameras. Took godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?"

Some polls show Dole trailing Hagan in her bid for re-election.

To see the ad, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lf2vDk-4Ag

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