By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG — South Florida’s most prominent congresswoman, Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has not been held in high regard following her party’s nominating convention in Charlotte, a fact that ultimately could trouble her re-election campaign at home.
In just a matter of weeks, Wasserman Schultz has received criticism from media critics and Democrats alike, challenging her on claims pertaining to Israel, the Republicans’ platform and her personal threats to the head of the Susan G. Komen Foundation over Planned Parenthood.
The troubles began during the week of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, when Wasserman Schultz claimed in a fundraising letter that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had directly intervened in the writing of the party’s platform on policies regarding abortion.
The email quotes its source as the Los Angeles Times, but as many media outlets and fact checkers have since pointed out, the supporting claims were misquoted and misrepresented the article in question.
“Do you at least acknowledge that the quote you gave from the LA Times is completely incorrect?” asked CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Aug. 23, pressing the DNC chair on her assertions that Romney’s campaign directly wrote the GOP platform.
“No, I don’t acknowledge that. What I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter,” Wasserman Schultz replied. She avoided further answering the question or admitting to any fault in the quote, visually frustrating the white-haired cable news host.
In another spat publicized during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the congresswomen told an audience of Democrats that the ambassador to Israel had voiced his own concerns on Republicans’ attitude to Israel.
“We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel,” she said at the event, first reported by the Washington Examiner newspaper. Those initial reports caused Wasserman Schultz to ultimately deny her own words on several occasions on CNN and to POLITICO, even going so far as to accuse the Examiner of misstating her words.
“I will reiterate that they did deliberately misquote me,” she told CNN’s Don Lemon on Sept. 8, doubling down on her comments.
Both the Washington Post and PolitiFact, run by the Tampa Bay Times, found it fitting to give Schultz four “Pinocchios” and a “pants on fire” rating for her denial, even causing the Israeli ambassador to publicly distance himself from Wasserman Schultz’s statements.
“I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle,” Oren released in a statement.
The congresswoman was similarly criticized after she claimed that omitted references to God and Jerusalem in the Democratic Party platform were on account of “technical errors,” she told a CNN panel, and later adding that there was “no dissent” on the delegate floor when the issue came to a vote, a claim clearly contradicted by video of the reaction.
This pattern of omissions and twisting even led CNN’s Cooper to state on air that Wasserman Schultz was “living in an alternate universe.”
Cooper’s claims, however, seem mild compared to the allegations in a newly released book by former Susan G. Komen Foundation executive Karen Handel, who called Wasserman Schultz a “schoolyard thug” after her personal interventions over decisions to pull funding from Planned Parenthood last year.
Handel claims that Wasserman Schultz made calls threatening that the organization would ultimately “regret the decision” to pull funding from the women’s health organization also partially funding by the government.
“Was it appropriate for a sitting member of Congress and the head of the DNC to browbeat a private organization about its grants and who would get them?” writes Handel in the book, “Planned Bullyhood.”
“The timing of the call seemed to suggest that if Komen would just continue the Planned Parenthood grants, all would be forgiven — that if Komen got back in line, the bullies would back off.”
The congresswoman’s office did not return calls to Florida Watchdog.
Republican businesswoman Karen Harrington, Schultz’s opponent in Florida’s 23rd Congressional District, used the missteps to push for her own election before the Republican Jewish Coalition rally Monday in Boca Raton.
“Does a liberal know it’s a lie if they believe it to be true?” she jeered with the crowd. “She said Amb. Oren said that Republicans are dangerous for America then she lied and said she never said that; and after listening to her own recording once again, she lied and said, ‘I never said that,” Harrington said to laughs.
Yaël Ossowski is Florida Bureau Chief for Watchdog.org. Contact him at [email protected]
— Yaël (@YaelOss) September 10, 2012