Fox News' Bill Hemmer aired a portion of an ad from Vets for Freedom in reporting that Sen. John McCain is "getting a bit of help" from the group, which is "launching ads featuring Iraq veterans blasting [Sen.] Barack Obama." However, Hemmer did not note that Sens. Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman served on the group's board of advisers or that McCain has previously denounced independent expenditures on his behalf, asserting, "If anyone considering an outside expenditure thinks they are benefiting me I would prefer they do not air the ads."
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On the May 28 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, co-host Bill Hemmer reported that "John McCain is getting a bit of help from the political action committee -- the PAC known as Vets for Freedom -- launching ads featuring Iraq veterans blasting Barack Obama," and aired a portion of an ad the group had released that day. Hemmer did not mention that two McCain supporters and frequent McCain campaign surrogates -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a general co-chairman of McCain's campaign, and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), a co-chairman of McCain's Connecticut Leadership Team -- served on the Vets for Freedom Policy Board of Advisors, but the day the group's PAC released the ad, they "request[ed] a leave" from their positions "[d]ue to McCain campaign guidelines." According to the McCain campaign website, the campaign's new policy states that "[n]o person with a McCain Campaign title or position may participate in a 527 or other independent entity that makes public communications that support or oppose any presidential candidate." Hemmer also did not note that McCain has previously denounced independent expenditures on his behalf, even as he has benefited from them, asserting during the campaign, "If anyone considering an outside expenditure thinks they are benefiting me I would prefer they do not air the ads."
On May 15, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis released the campaign's "Conflict Policy." In a May 23 Huffington Post article, national editor Nico Pitney and political reporter Sam Stein reported that Graham and Lieberman were in apparent violation of the new policy due to their positions with Vets for Freedom. Subsequently, in a letter dated May 28 and posted to the Vets for Freedom website that day, Lieberman and Graham wrote: "Due to McCain campaign guidelines, we must request a leave from our positions as Honorary Members of the Policy Board of Advisors for Vets for Freedom." The ad Hemmer aired asserts that the Vets for Freedom PAC "is responsible for the content of this advertising."
In a cached version of the Vets for Freedom website, Graham and Lieberman are listed as honorary members of the group's Policy Board of Advisors. The website indicates that it is "[p]aid for by Vets for Freedom Political Action Committee":
The Vets for Freedom PAC logo also appears on the version of Graham and Lieberman's letter posted on the site. The letter was posted by "PAC, VFF":
Hemmer also did not note that the McCain campaign has reportedly claimed that it does not want "help" from outside groups. In a November 9, 2007, press release, McCain asserted: "If anyone considering an outside expenditure thinks they are benefiting me I would prefer they do not air the ads." Further, McCain campaign senior adviser Charlie Black was quoted in a May 14 Washington Post article as saying of outside groups: "Obviously, McCain would prefer that people give money to him and the RNC [Republican National Committee] and let us run our own campaign. ... It's an issue of who is going to control your campaign."
From the May 28 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:
HEMMER: All right. As [co-host] Megyn [Kelly] mentioned, Barack Obama, John McCain, sparring over Iraq today. And now John McCain is getting a bit of help from the political action committee -- the PAC known as Vets for Freedom -- launching ads featuring Iraq veterans blasting Barack Obama. Check this out and watch.
SPC. KATE NORLEY (combat medic) [video clip]: The last time Barack Obama visited Iraq was in January 2006. Since then, much has changed. Attacks throughout Iraq are down 70 percent. The civil war in Iraq: over. The Iraqi government has come together to make political progress. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated.
HEMMER: And so, since then, this week, McCain campaign proposing the two men go to Iraq together, but the Obama camp says we're not biting on that one, saying that mere suggestion by McCain is, quote, "nothing more than a political stunt."