Last month, Nevada senatorial candidate Sharron Angle (R) released an attack ad on her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Besides being racially offensive, the ad was also patently false. The ad erroneously alleged that that Reid is the “best friend an illegal alien ever had” because he supposedly voted to give undocumented immigrants tax breaks and Social Security benefits as the rest of Nevadans languish in a deep recession.
In her debate last night against Reid, Angle was given the opportunity to either clarify her claims or apologize for her deceptive ad. However, Angle did neither. Instead, she merely repeated the allegations in her ad without providing any further evidence to indicate they are true:
MODERATOR: In a television ad you quoted that Senator Reid, “voted to give special tax breaks to illegal aliens and to give illegals social security benefits.” Most reputable factcheckers have said that’s patently false, especially the line about Social Security benefits. The ad was even criticized by the chair of the Republican Hispanic caucus. Would you like to denounce the ad as deceptive or give voters documented evidence about its accuracy?
ANGLE: Not at all. I’m glad to give voters the opportunity to see that Harry Reid has voted to give Social Security to illegal aliens. Not only did he vote to give it to them after they have become citizens but even before they were citizens he voted to give them the benefits of our Social Security. [...]
Angle then awkwardly pivoted and started talking about the nation’s Social Security system and how it’s not “being addressed.” Somehow the conversation shifted from a discussion about Reid’s immigration votes to his own social security retirement account. Reid later pointed out that Angle didn’t answer the question and maintained “everything she has said in the ad is false.” Angle responded, “I think the question has everything to do with Social Security and what’s gone wrong in our system.”
Politifact shed some light on the claims back when Angle’s ad came out. Reid’s votes affected the policy for former undocumented immigrants who were later made legal. Before a change in the law in 2007, Reid voted twice in support of allowing legal immigrants who had worked in the U.S. without papers before fixing their status to get credit for money they had paid into the Social Security system years before, when they were undocumented. Politifact notes that the vote was not about “giving benefits,” but rather on “chang[ing] the calculation process” of credits earned toward Social Security.
Angle also doesn’t mention in her ad that Reid later voted in favor of an amendment in 2007 to essentially prevent former undocumented immigrants from earning credit for Social Security payments after obtaining legal status. The amendment became law. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants who never obtain legal status are not even eligible to earn credits or collect Social Security benefits at any point in their lives.