“If you think you can slander a woman into loving you, or a man into voting for you, try it till you are satisfied.” –Abraham Lincoln
When opponents of the late Ilongga Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago referred to her as “Brenda” (short for “brain damage”) during her 1992 presidential run after circulating an unfounded story claiming she was mentally unstable, it appeared the Philippines was home to the most obnoxious and murky elections in the world. However, it turns out, mudslinging and slanderous campaign advertisements are even nastier in the United States.
I laugh every time I see the television ad “approved” by Bob Hugin, the Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, accusing incumbent Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat, of soliciting minors for sex. It reminded me of the 1998 presidential campaign of Joseph Estrada, who won despite rivals accusing him of being a womanizer and addicted to liquor.
Hugin, a former pharmaceutical executive, has reportedly spent over $10 million on negative ads. The media has since described their race as “unexpectedly close and increasingly nasty.”
The Republican’s ad focuses on the most salacious details of allegations made against the incumbent, which claimed he and a friend, wealthy Florida doctor Salomon Melgen, frequently hired underage prostitutes while vacationing in the Dominican Republic.
After playing a clip of Menendez asking, “When will we, as a society, begin to believe women?” during the recent hearings for now-Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the ad replies, “What about the underage girls who accused you, according to the FBI?”
The allegations against the incumbent were reportedly brought forward by an anonymous tipster who went by the name ‘Pete Williams,’ a reference to Harrison ‘Pete’ Williams, a former Democratic senator from New Jersey, who, alongside six congressman, were convicted on corruption charges in the 1980s.
The more recent accusations were first provided to left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, who eventually passed it on to the FBI. The claims brought up in the ad refer to an FBI affidavit that showed enough probably cause to issue a search warrant. In the affidavit, Special Agent Gregory J. Sheehy recounted his attempts to investigate the allegations.
Whether its truthful or not, the ad shows below-the-belt attack ads are not exclusive actions of Filipino politicians, who, at times, go so far as invent stories, hire “barkers,” and acquire radio block time during the campaign period to destroy an opponent’s reputation.
Much like the 2016 US presidential election, this column will also cover the US midterm elections, slated for November 6. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are being contested, along with 35 posts in the Senate. The result will determine the makeup of each chamber, with Republicans currently controlling both – leading the House 235 to 193, and the Senate 51-49.
According to reports, Democrats are currently “on a roll” and hope to pick up enough seats to take the House./WDJ