Why does Evan McMullin want the Club for Growth attack ad removed?

Independent Senate candidate Evan McMullin is questioning a conservative political action committee’s attack ad that he says was fraudulently put together to make it sound like he was calling Republicans racist.

McMullin said the Club for Growth spot, which began airing on local television stations this week, deliberately edited his words to “deceive and divide our state to protect Senator Lee and save his failed campaign.”

GOP incumbent Sen. Mike Lee and McMullin are locked in an ugly, heated race for the U.S. Senate. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll shows the two candidates running neck and neck.

Club for Growth’s 30-second ad shows three women watching a video clip on a laptop in which McMullin says, “The Republican base is racist . . . these bigots.” The women cringe and then comment on the remark, including one saying what McMullin said “doesn’t feel friendly” and another calling him a “charlatan.”

The clip is from an August 12, 2017, appearance McMullin made on CNN with five other guests talking about the Republican response to deadly violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. An attack on peaceful counter-protesters left one person dead.

On CNN, McMullin said that most Republicans tend not to speak out against racism because they are attacked by some in the party for doing so.

“Not all Republicans are racist, of course. … But there is an element of the Republican base that is racist,” McMullin said in the segment.

“And we need leaders, especially on the Republican side and the conservative side these days, who serve the country, and serving the country means standing up to these bigots. This country was built on equality and freedom, and we need , that all our leaders stand…”

McMullin used the word “bigots” in connection with the white supremacists and other racist groups.

“Obviously they processed this video,” said Andrew Roberts, McMullin’s campaign manager.

Roberts said the ad “deletes and splices” words in the 5-year-old interview that McMullin “never said and would never say.”

McMullin said he is “outraged” by the ad, calling it false and a lie. He urged Lee to denounce it and demand that it be taken down.

“If Mike Lee doesn’t want to do it, then he also has direct responsibility for the ad,” he said.

The Lee campaign declined to comment.

Federal law prohibits political campaigns from coordinating with PACs such as the Club for Growth. The Washington-based super PAC did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday.

The Club for Growth is poised to spend at least $2.5 million on television advertising in Utah. It noted in a press release after Lee won the GOP primary in June that Club for Growth members contributed $190,485 to Lee’s campaign through its PAC.

The McMullin campaign identified one of the women in the ad as Lynda Cox, president of the Professional Republican Women of Utah.

Contacted by text Thursday, Cox said, “I stand by my comments in the Club for Growth ad.”

In the ad, Cox says, “To me, Evan McMullin is a charlatan. He’s trying to play the middle man and be independent,” using air quotes with the word “independent.”

The McMullin campaign has also asked Utah TV stations to remove the spot.

After the deadly Charlottesville riot, then-President Donald Trump insisted that “there is blame on both sides.”

Lee was among the Republicans who criticized Trump over his comments.

“Wearing a Nazi flag or any other symbol of white supremacy is a hateful act that cannot be morally defended, least of all by the leader of a diverse nation still healing from its original sin of racist slavery,” Lee wrote on Facebook.

“Racists may have a constitutional right to express their vile ideas. But the rest of us have a duty to affirm and defend the values—the moral, political, and religious values—that have helped Americans overcome violent racism at home and abroad, in war and in peace, for generations.”

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