WASHINGTON — A North Carolina congressman has threatened legal action against his Republican primary challenger over a television ad that accuses him of "revealing troop positions" during a recent trip to Iraq, "and just two days later, two Americans died."
Rep. Patrick McHenry says the 30-second ad, being aired on local cable channels and the Internet by attorney Lance Sigmon of Newton, N.C., is defamatory.
The controversy began last month when McHenry, a two-term lawmaker, returned from his first trip to Iraq.
In a speech to local Republicans, McHenry said he'd tried to get into a gym near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad but was turned away by a "two-bit security guard." Then, McHenry posted a video of himself in the Green Zone talking about how close enemy rocket attacks had come while he was there.
McHenry voluntarily pulled the video after a veterans group called VoteVets.org accused McHenry of giving away intelligence information that could aid terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone.
Sigmon last week called for an investigation into whether McHenry endangered Americans' lives by detailing the success of enemy attacks.
A letter from McHenry's attorney, R. Kelsey Williams, tells Sigmon to "cease and desist" from airing his campaign ad titled "Two Bit."
"Representative McHenry has never alluded to nor mentioned any positions of troops," said the letter, dated Friday but made public Monday. "Also, said ad asserts that the aforementioned video caused the death of two Americans. This statement is on its face false."
Sigmon campaign manager Joe Brannock said that the ad doesn't accuse McHenry of directly causing the deaths and that Sigmon has no plans to stop airing it.
"I, along with many other military veterans, believe that through this poor judgment and concern for his political image, he endangered our troops," Sigmon said in a statement.
McHenry hasn't elaborated much about the episode, but he said in an interview last week that he had been trying to convey "a very personal story."
"I think the people who have heard my story about the trip understand the impact it had on me as an individual," he said. "It was quite an eye-opening experience and I'll let it rest at that."