Senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod on Sunday denied that a recent ad from pro-Obama super-PAC Priorities USA blamed Mitt Romney for a woman’s death from cancer, after her husband lost his job and insurance at a plant shuttered by Bain Capital.
“I don't think anybody, anybody believes . . . that Gov. Romney can be blamed for the death of Mr. Soptic's wife,” Axelrod said Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“And, frankly, I don't think the ad says that either,” he added.
The ad, released by Super PAC Priorities USA, has been roundly criticized in recent weeks, with many claiming it goes too far and suggests Romney is responsible for the woman’s death.
In the ad, Missouri steelworker Joe Soptic says he was laid off by his company, which was owned Romney’s private equity firm Bain, and that his wife later died of cancer. Soptic says she did not seek medical help because of fears they could not afford it after he lost his pension and health benefits when he was let go.
The Romney campaign has hit hard against the ad claiming it unfairly blames Romney for the woman’s death, but Priorities USA chief Bill Burton has said the ad does not intend to suggest that.
When host Stephanopoulos pushed Axelrod on the ad, the Obama adviser said Romney was himself behind campaign ads that were less that innocent.
“The irony of all this, George, is that this ad is running at the very same time that Gov. Romney's campaign is running an ad that he paid for . . . saying that the president wants to end the work requirement in welfare,” he said. “Every single person who's looked at it said it's false. He continues to run it. He says, ‘I approve this message,’ and then he attacks others for ads that we didn't approve and that we didn't produce? I think he's the one who needs to explain.”
When asked point blank whether Obama viewed the Soptic ad as “appropriate,” Axelrod sidestepped the question.
“I don't think Gov. Romney can be blamed for that woman's death. What he can be blamed for is taking that steel company to bankruptcy, walking away with millions of dollars, and leaving workers without pensions, without the health coverage they were promised,” he said.
“That's a real issue. He has run on his business experience, and his business experience is things like the GS Steel story, where he took, where they loaded companies with debt, profited from it to the tune of millions of dollars, and then left workers and creditors holding the bag,” Axelrod concluded. “That is a relevant issue in this campaign.”
Also appearing on ABC, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), a prominent Romney surrogate, countered Axelrod’s claims, saying Obama and his campaign “should have the basic decency to step forward in the wake of these ads accusing Mitt Romney of essentially being a co-conspirator and killing this gentleman's spouse and say, ‘You know what, that ad is out of bounds.’ ”
Pawlenty claimed Sunday that Obama had failed to take responsibility and disclaim the controversial allegations raised in the super-PAC ad.
“The White House has punted it back to the campaign,” he said. “And when you're a leader, you've got to step forward and take responsibility in key moments.”