A super PAC affiliated with House Republican leadership has put together an ad linking Jon Ossoff—a Democratic candidate for the suburban Atlanta congressional seat formerly held by Tom Price before he became President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services—to Osama bin Laden.
Ossoff’s offense? Getting paid by Al Jazeera for documentary films produced by his company, Insight TWI.
The Congressional Leadership Fund’s ad begins with a narrator saying that “Al Jazeera, a media outlet that has been described as a mouthpiece for terrorists, has been paying Jon Ossoff thousands of dollars.” Those words are read over a clip of bin Laden speaking. The ad concludes by asking, “What is he hiding? How can we trust him?”
The Insight TWI films featured by Al Jazeera include one outing unlicensed doctors for performing abortions in unsanitary conditions in Nigeria, and another exposing foreign food aid fraud in Ghana. In direct contrast to the suggestion that Ossoff somehow conspires with terrorists, Ossoff produced a BBC-featured film last year profiling women who were fighting ISIS in Iraq. Ossoff worked as a legislative aide on national security issues for Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) before he got into documentary filmmaking.
In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Ossoff campaign manager Keenan Pontoni said, “This smear attack is truly shameful. Jon served as a national security aide, had top secret clearance and he’s proud of his work as an investigative filmmaker working for outlets all over the world like the BBC, Skyvision, and yes, Al Jazeera. Jon helped stop the theft of US tax dollars and helped expose atrocities committed by ISIS. Comparing that important work to helping terrorists goes beyond the pale.”
In March, NPR reported that the Congressional Leadership Fund spent $1.1 million on ads attacking Ossoff. One spot features old footage of Ossoff dressed up as Han Solo while lightheartedly mocking Georgetown’s alcohol policy from his days as a student there — the suggestion being that Ossoff’s not mature enough to serve in Congress.
If this reeks of desperation, there’s a reason. Ossoff has surged ahead of his Republican competitors as the April 18 special election draws nearer. A poll released Wednesday pegs him at 43 percent, with the number two candidate at 15 percent. Ossoff needs to hit 50 percent to avoid a runoff election with the second-place finisher on June 20.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that while Republicans have held Price’s old seat for decades, “Donald Trump’s struggles in the district — he won the territory by a one-point margin — give Democrats hope of flipping it.”
“With his ‘Make Trump Furious’ campaign, Ossoff claims to have raised more than $3 million in campaign cash and has locked down support of national political figures and many local party leaders,” the Journal-Constitution adds.
UPDATE: A mailer distributed by the Georgia Republican Party doubles down on the the Congressional Leadership Fund’s smear.
Below Al Jazeera’s logo, it says, “Once you’ve worked for them… you can’t work for us.”
— peyton edwards (@peytoned) April 5, 2017
Al Jazeera has received the Columbia Journalism Award and numerous Peabody Awards. Its work has been recognized by Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Donald Rumsfeld.