WashPost Buries Damning New Soptic Facts Under 'Democrats Call Joe the Steelworker' Headline

The Washington Post seemed to honor Obama-commercial star Joe Soptic in the news section Thursday. Nia-Malika Henderson’s article was headlined “For anti-Romney ads, Democrats call Joe the Steelworker.” The subhead: "New spot seems to tie his wife's death to plant's closure after Bain took over." Online, the headline was "Forget Joe the Plumber -- Meet Joe the Steelworker."

The Post couldn't find space for the Soptic story on Wednesday, even though Henderson interviewed him on Tuesday. Just like with the David Plouffe-scores-100-grand story this week, the Post headlines downplayed that Henderson found more details that make the Soptic ad look even more misleading:

Soptic cast himself as a spokesman for his fellow crew members, who still get together once a month for breakfast. “Everyone is quite proud because the story had to be told,” he said.

Soptic said Priorities USA, the super PAC supporting Obama, contacted him about a week ago to alert him to the latest ad, which was partially shot in his home and at the union hall. In it, he talks about the loss of his wife of 30 years.

The ad shows Soptic, the father of a grown daughter, frozen in time as a grieving widower and a bitter former steelworker struggling to make ends meet. Yet today, that is only part of his story. With his pension and custodial salary, he makes about $46,000, which is what he made in 2001 when he lost his job.

He also has a new wife — his high school sweetheart from 42 years ago. “It all had a happy ending,” Soptic told The Washington Post.

He declined to comment on whether he thinks Romney is to blame for his first wife’s death, as the ad seems to suggest. Referring to his former employer, he said, “They made certain promises, and I feel like if they did fulfill those promises, she would have had health insurance.”

As D.C. radio host Chris Plante mocked this morning: “Seems to suggest?”

Henderson’s editors must have demanded more detail than Chris Matthews did on Tuesday night’s Hardball, since she praised him as a “pretty good surrogate” for Team Obama. She agreed with Matthews that the ad was “pretty rough,” but....

HENDERSON: This guy Joe Soptic, he is becoming like Joe the Plumber of this cycle. I actually talked to him today. He feels this stuff. He remembers it very well. Of course, he has moved on with his life.

MATTHEWS: He knew about Bain when they did their takeover.

HENDERSON: He knew about Bain. He was there in 2001 when he got laid off. He was making $46,000. He had to become a janitor, where he was making $15,000. He didn`t have any health...

MATTHEWS: He lost his health.

HENDERSON: He lost his health insurance. He almost lost his house. And so, I mean, he has been a pretty good surrogate. You have seen him in several of these ads.

This guy really isn't like Joe the Plumber -- his whole life was dragged out by government bureaucrats in Ohio seeking to elect Obama in 2008. Henderson also noticed how ridiculous it sounded that the Obama reelection team would have no memory of Soptic, when they had their own ad starring Soptic:

On Wednesday, Obama advisers distanced themselves from the former steelworker and the most recent ad, saying they were unaware of the details of Soptic’s account about his wife. “We don’t have any knowledge of the story of the family,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Air Force One.

But in addition to running its own ad with Soptic, the Obama campaign featured him in a conference call with reporters in May, when he shared his story.

Republicans pounced on the discrepancy. “Still no knowledge, Jen?” a news release from the Republican National Committee taunted after reports of the conference call surfaced....

Soptic, a lifelong Democrat and union member, said an Internet search led Democratic groups to his story, first reported in local newspapers several years ago.

“This all started back in December. They wanted to know how our lives have changed since the plant closed and how I felt,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Soptic, who appeared in Obama’s first television ad about Romney’s record at Bain in May, continued: “I think the reason they keep coming back to me is because of everything that has happened in our life since the plant closed.” Even if it makes the Priorities USA ad look extremely reckless with the truth.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis