GOP Senate nominee blames Democratic opponent for downplaying virus — but not Trump

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A new campaign ad launched by Michigan GOP Senate candidate John James is riddled with misinformation.

A new ad launched by the campaign of Michigan Republican Senate nominee John James blames the nation's botched coronavirus response on the incumbent he hopes to unseat, Democratic Sen. Gary Peters.

The ad, which James tweeted on Tuesday, states that "Michigan's been hit hard" by the pandemic, adding that "Washington politicians completely failed us."

It takes words from a statement Peters made in February out of context in an attempt to portray him as having downplayed the pandemic.

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"We think the risk right now to the United States is very low, but we need to keep our eye on it," Peters said during an interview on Fox News on Feb. 12. "But really, the focus is trying to contain the infection as much as possible."

But the James ad only runs the very beginning of Peters' statement: "The risk right now to the United States is very low."

It also falsely claims that Peters "leads the committee that oversees America's pandemic response."

Republicans hold a majority in the Senate, and therefore lead every Senate committee, including the Homeland Security Committee, chaired by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who controls the its agenda. Peters is the ranking member of the committee.

The ad is accurate in saying that Michigan has been hit hard by the pandemic. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported the state had more than 98,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and at least 6,534 people had died of virus-related causes.

The federal response to the coronavirus pandemic in the United States is led by Donald Trump, whose name is not mentioned in the ad at all.

In March, as case numbers were increasing in Michigan, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called the White House to ask for federal assistance. She was unable to speak with Trump, who, she said, was at the time on Fox News attacking her.

On April 17, Trump encouraged residents to revolt against Whitmer, tweeting, "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" after she imposed restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus.

An investigation in early April conducted by Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), a member of the House Oversight Committee, found that Trump "failed to prepare" for the crisis in January and February when "the U.S. should have been stockpiling medical supplies."

Trump's response to the pandemic has included spreading misinformation about potential cures, attacking his administration's health experts, and routinely lying to the American public about the crisis.

James has been an outspoken Trump supporter for years, saying during his unsuccessful run for Sen. Debbie Stabenow's seat in 2017 that he supported the president's agenda "2,000 percent."

James is currently trailing Peters by eight points according to an average of recent polls compiled by Real Clear Politics. Peters has led in every one of the 22 statewide polls conducted from March 2019 through August 2020.

The race is currently rated "Lean Democrat" by Inside Elections.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.