Updated 4:56 p.m. | The 60 Plus Association has debuted a new ad in the Nebraska Senate race that features veterans attacking former state Treasurer Shane Osborn as dishonest and deceitful.
Osborn, who served in the Navy, faces Midland University President Ben Sasse and banker Sid Dinsdale in a competitive Republican primary for Senate.
The group airing the spot, 60 Plus, is backing Sasse in the May 13 primary.
In the script for the ad, published first by Roll Call, three retired Nebraska veterans, Col. Kevin L. Neuman, who served in the Army; Capt. Danny Mason, who served in the Navy; and Brig. Gen. Carl Lorenzen, who served in the Air Force, say they cannot vote for Osborn because they feel he has been dishonest in his behavior since his military service. "When I was in Officer Candidate School, one of the codes of conduct that we had to live by was ‘I will not lie, cheat, or steal nor will I tolerate those that do so. For that very reason, I cannot support Shane Osborn and I will not vote for him," Neuman says.
The veterans point to news reports in March that Osborn was circulating a fake memo from the Navy lauding his actions during the Hainan Incident in 2001, when the reconnaissance plane that Osborn was piloting over China collided with a Chinese Navy Jet. Osborn was forced to land the plane in China, where he was held and interrogated for 12 days. The memo turned out to not be an official Navy document, but rather, written by a friend of Osborn's who worked in the Pentagon.
"An officer that’s willing to stoop to something like create a fake memo just shows a total lack of character and is not someone that we need in the United States Senate," Lorenzen says in the ad.
The $250,000 buy begins on Saturday, and is set to run through May 12, according to a source with knowledge of the buy.
Osborn campaign manager Bill Novotny blasted the buy as "disrespectful."
“Shane Osborn received Distinguish Flying Cross and the Meritorious Service Medal for his service to the United States," he said in a statement. "Ben Sasse is not a veteran, and has never risked his life for the sake of our great nation. Sasse and his Washington allies should be ashamed of themselves for attacking a decorated veteran for his military service. This latest attack on Shane’s record of service is disrespectful to every single American who has ever worn the uniform.”
"In a pathetic and despicable display, Sasse has launched a disgraceful and un-American attack against a decorated veteran for his military service," added Veterans for Shane Coalition Chairman Air Force Maj. Gen. Roger P. Lempke. "Let's be clear, this smear is owned by one person, Ben Sasse, a man who has never stood in defense of our nation, and he needs to answer for it."
Late Friday afternoon, Sasse released a statement in response to the ad.
"We have nothing but respect for those who serve our country in the military, decry all attacks on Shane’s service, and have repeatedly thanked him for his service to our country," Sasse said. "We have never made an issue of the counterfeit memo in our campaign, and we are certainly not going to get in the middle of a fight between Shane and other veterans."
The Osborn campaign is exploring all options available regarding this ad, according to a source familiar with the campaign's plans.
Osborn is viewed as the establishment candidate in the race, while Sasse has claimed the outsider mantle. A poll conducted for Tea Party Express, which is backing Sasse, on Thursday found the two in a dead heat, with Dinsdale trailing.
The seat is open because Republican Sen. Mike Johanns is retiring.
The race is rated Safe Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.