Democratic candidate Abigail Spanberger is one of the latest to be on the receiving end of Republican fear-mongering. A GOP super PAC released several Islamophobic ads connecting the former CIA operative to terrorism for teaching English at a Muslim high school in Virginia.
“What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?” a voice asks in one ad, paid for by the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), a super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
“Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed ‘Terror High,’ a terrorist breeding ground,” the ad continues. “One graduate plotted to assassinate President Bush. Another was arrested for trying to bring a butcher knife on an airplane. So dangerous, even [Sen.] Chuck Schumer called for the school to be shut down. But Abigail Spanberger cashed her paychecks like nothing was wrong.”
Spanberger, who’s running against vulnerable incumbent Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) in Virginia’s 7th district, taught as a substitute teacher at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia for several months between 2002 and 2003. At the time, she was waiting for the CIA and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to process her security clearance applications and she later went on to work at the CIA on counterterrorism issues.
While the ad is correct in saying that “one graduate plotted to assassinate President Bush” (Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is serving a life sentence for it), the ad bends over backwards in its attempt to link Spanberger to terrorism. As USA Today wrote in its fact-check of the ad, “the CIA was fully aware of her employment … Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who is serving a life sentence, graduated from the school several years before Spanberger was a teacher there.”
The ad is one of many issued by the CLF that relies on misleading statements, fear-mongering, and racist lies in order to scare constituents into voting Republican. While Brat’s campaign isn’t behind the Spanberger ads, the incumbent took no issue with adopting the narrative, telling a radio show last month, “They’ve produced terrorists. They’re called ‘Terror High.’ … They’re openly anti-American, anti-women, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and anti-Christian.”
Spanberger said, according to USA Today, that the ad sets a “terrible example” for the future of politics.
“It shows a whole new level of ‘win at any cost,'” she added.
Meanwhile, in a recent meeting with prison inmates, Brat compared their challenges of recovering from drug addiction to the negative ads he’s faced in the lead-up to the midterms.
“You think you’re having a hard time — I got $5 million worth of negative ads going at me,” Brat told Chesterfield County jail inmates. “How do you think I’m feeling? Nothing’s easy. For anybody. You think I’m a congressman. ‘Oh, life’s easy. This guy’s off having steaks’. . . . Baloney, I got a daughter, she’s got to deal with that crap on TV every day. It’s tough.”
Only later did Brat acknowledge that the inmates may be facing more difficult circumstances, telling them, “You got it harder — I’m not dismissing that.”