A Case Study in Desperate Attempts To Change the Subject from Ken Cuccinelli

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 28 2013 4:38 PM

Cuccinelli’s Response to Abortion Questions: Anthony Weiner!

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli speaks at a campaign rally.
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli not responding to questions about abortion. Not pictured, Anthony Weiner.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Ken Cuccinelli’s Virginia gubernatorial campaign has been scrambling to stave off accusations that his previous support for “personhood” legislation in the state means he is in favor of restricting birth control. He was confronted with this argument in a town hall meeting on Tuesday, and responded that he does not support any kinds of restrictions on contraception. Practically speaking, even if he doesn’t support contraception control, the personhood bill he co-sponsored in the Virginia Senate in 2007 would likely have had that effect, according to people who know these things.

This latest focus on Cuccinelli’s aggressive social conservatism comes on the heels of a pro-choice protest against the attorney general on Monday. The response from the Cuccinelli campaign to local TV affiliates when asked about protestors' claims that he would set back abortion and birth control rights as governor was a master class in sad attempts to change the subject:

"Terry McAuliffe has stood silently by as his Democratic friends degrade and harass women. Terry has been given numerous opportunities to denounce the despicable behavior of Anthony Weiner and other Democrat politicians, yet he refuses to take a principled stand for what's right."

That’s right, if you are worried about the abortion restrictions a Cuccinelli administration might pass, then Anthony Weiner. Not only is this some mighty ridiculous guilt-by-sort-of-association, it’s also a painful non sequitur. It takes the “reverse war on women” strategy to a level not seen since the National Republican Senatorial Committee tried to use Slate’s Carlos Danger name generator to condemn Democrats writ-large.

As noted here last week by Emma Roller, this is not the first time Cuccinelli has borrowed the “reverse war on women” meme from the national party. He also tried to link McAuliffe to Bob Filner. But at least the Filner attack was in email blasts and not in a statement that completely ignored reporters’ questions without even a fig leaf.

I asked the McAuliffe campaign for a response (and if the campaign would like to denounce Weiner at all publicly), and this is what I got from Press Secretary Josh Schwerin:

"This is just another desperate and, frankly, laughable attempt by the Cuccinelli campaign to avoid talking about his extreme social agenda on a day when he lied about his support for extreme personhood legislation that could make common forms of birth control illegal."

As transparent and irrelevant as Cuccinelli’s “Operation Weiner Distraction” efforts were, it’s worth noting that the McAuliffe campaign also completely ignored my question, however stupid that question was. Last week, when Roller asked essentially the same question about Bob Filner, Schwerin told her that “of course” McAuliffe thought Filner should resign. Filner and Weiner are two different fish—one was accused of serial sexual harassment and the other of lying about being a lecherous idiot—but the de-facto refusal to throw Weiner under the bus is still interesting.  

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.




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