Dole Camp Wants Defamation Suit Thrown Out

Posted October 31, 2008 at 1:37pm

Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s (R-N.C.) lawyers told a Tar Heel State judge on Friday that a much-maligned television ad is “100 percent accurate” and asked the court to throw out a defamation suit brought by the lawmaker’s political opponent, state Sen. Kay Hagan (D).

“For once during her campaign, Kay Hagan won’t be able to dodge serious questions,” Dole spokesman Dan McLagan said in a statement. “The questions in this filing, if answered truthfully by Hagan, will prove the ‘Promise’ ad is 100 percent accurate.”

Earlier this week, Dole’s campaign went up with an ad suggesting that Hagan, who is heavily involved in her local church, pals around with atheists — undoubtedly an unpopular association in the Bible Belt. The ad aired as a rash of polls showed Dole trailing Hagan. The Dole campaign went up with a second ad questioning Hagan’s religious beliefs on Friday.

Hagan filed a defamation suit on Thursday in response to the first ad, which the Charlotte Observer called “egregious” and “shameful.”

“A leader of the Godless Americans recently held a secret fundraiser in Kay Hagan’s honor,” Dole’s first ad begins, followed by sound bites from a Godless Americans spokesman on cable news shows saying, “There is no God to rely on” and “there was no Jesus.”

“Godless Americans and Kay Hagan,” the ad continues, “she hid from cameras, took Godless money. What did Hagan promise in return?”

According to the group’s Web site, Godless Americans is a political action committee that supports “candidates for public office who support the First Amendment separation of church and state, defend equal rights and protections for our nation’s godless Americans, inform our community of the voting records of their elected representatives on issues of concern and support our goal of having ‘a place at the table’ in formulating public policy.”

The PAC has not given Hagan a contribution this cycle, according to Federal Election Commission records, and the North Carolina Council of Churches immediately asked Dole to take down the ad.

“As you no doubt know, Sen. Hagan is a faithful and active member and leader in the First Presbyterian Church of Greensboro,” the group wrote in a statement. “To say or even to suggest that that outstanding congregation has chosen a lay leader who doesn’t believe in God is appalling and should be offensive to churches and church leaders throughout the state.”