Let’s say you’re running for Congress as a war hero. And let’s say you want to run a TV ad showing some interviews you did with national news outlets talking about your heroism. There’s only one problem — the interviews also mention the heinous double murder you were accused of committing while wearing a Marine Corps uniform in Iraq.
What do you do? If you said “cut out all the murder stuff and just go with the parts that make me look good,” you might be Ilario Pantano, the Republican nominee for Congress in North Carolina’s 7th District.
As Daily Beaster Benjy Sarlin pointed out in this opus earlier this year, Pantano is actually running on the fact that he was once brought up on murder charges for while serving in Iraq. Here’s what went down, as Sarlin told it:
In April 2004, Pantano killed two unarmed Iraqi detainees, twice unloading his gun into their bodies and firing between 50 and 60 shots in total. Afterward, he placed a sign over the corpses featuring the Marines’ slogan “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” as a message to the local population.
Pantano admits the killings and turned the story into a huge net positive, writing a book about the tale that earned him rabid support from conservatives and even, as Sarlin writes, “sympathetic treatment from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.” Pantano contends the shooting was in self defense and the military dropped its murder charges against him after a witness’ testimony could not be corroborated.
But you wouldn’t know any of that if you watched this TV ad from Pantano, which ran in the first part of September:
You would know it if you watched the interviews cited in the piece. Here’s an NBC Nightly News version of that Stone Phillips interview that runs at the beginning of the spot. (The tape originally aired in April 2005):
Notice anything different? Oh yeah, how about how the entire piece is focused on the accusations against Pantano and his defiant defense of them? How about the Curry interview, which was recorded a year later, and opens like this:
“It’s a case that captured national attention,” Curry says, “and raised questions about the use of deadly force in a war zone.” She then launches into a series of questions about the murder case and how Pantano handled it. See the full interview here. The other fact left out of the ad, but mentioned by Curry, is that before Pantano heroically rejoined the Marines after 9/11, he worked on Wall Street for a little trading company called Goldman Sachs (not exactly a badge of honor in 2010.)
None of that made the ad cut either. Pantano’s campaign says, essentially, no big deal.
“That ad is 100% accurate,” Pantano spokesperson Andy Yates told me in an interview today. Yates said that the edits were due to the fact that the footage needed to be “cut down to fit the time frame” of the 30-second spot. Yates said the “compilation of clips” was as fair as it could — or needed to — be.
I asked if voters might not be getting the full story about Pantano from the ad. Yates said that with the internationally-covered Pantano murder trial happening just outside the 7th District’s border years back, “anybody that doesn’t know about” Pantano’s murder charges “has been living under a rock.”
Pantano’s ad is not the first to use interview footage controversially this year. Earlier this month, Fox News sued the Democratic nominee for Senate in Missouri, Robin Carnahan, after her campaign ran an ad that used a tough question from a Fox News Sunday interview to make Republican nominee Roy Blunt look bad. Fox said the ad made it look like the network endorsed Carnahan which it hasn’t.
I reached out to Curry for comment on her interview being used in the Pantano ad, but have yet to hear back.
Meanwhile, Pantano’s ad isn’t the first to be accused of not telling the whole story in the 7th District race, either. As the AP reports, McIntyre has had his own problems with a commercial he’s run “accusing Pantano of wanting to raise taxes 23 percent.” The spot “misrepresents a ‘fair tax’ proposal that Pantano supports to establish a federal sales tax but eliminate a range of other taxes and do away with the Internal Revenue Service.” McIntyre took the ads down, but the campaign says the decision has nothing to do with the criticism.