2011-08-19 / Top Stories

Turner Campaign Courts Controversy

By Daniel Solomon

Bob Turner campaigns for the House of Representatives. Bob Turner campaigns for the House of Representatives. In the close contest to fill Anthony Weiner’s vacated seat in Congress, Republican Bob Turner apparently angered some locals and political commentators when the Breezy Point conservative, in his first ad of the campaign, targeted his Democratic opponent’s support of a Ground Zero mosque by using scenes from the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Talking about 9/11 and the Islamists who perpetrated that crime, the commercial has a straightforward message. “It’s been ten short years. Everyone remembers. Some, though, want to commemorate the tragedy by building a mosque on Ground Zero. President Obama thinks that’s a good idea. And so does Congressional candidate David Weprin,” the narrator states, with the screen then flashing to video of Weprin that backs up the previous statement, “Bob Turner says no. He knows Obama and Weprin are wrong. September 13, send a message. Bob Turner for Congress.”

The commercial, which can be seen in Queens and Brooklyn and is featured prominently on the Congressional hopeful’s Web site, reprises last year’s debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, a project whose actual name is Park51. Supporters of the plan say that the facility, in fact, located three blocks away from Ground Zero, is supposed to include a community center and a pool in addition to a prayer space. That, however, didn’t stop Republicans from making hay over the issue.

In the gubernatorial election, Tea Partier Carl Paladino promised to use eminent domain to stop Park51 and Bob Turner seemed to favor that approach. At the time, New York Democrats countered the conservative attacks by invoking the First Amendment’s provision for religious freedom and performed well in November, leaving the furor to slowly die down.

Now, it’s back, and it’s not just the commercial’s text that had caused a stir, but also its imagery. The ad displays footage of the Twin Towers burning on September 11, shown side-by-side with a picture of an imposing mosque.

The 30-second spot immediately drew fire from Weprin and many liberal commentators. “I thought it was particularly offensive to use 9/11 imagery before the tenth anniversary for political purposes,” the Democrat told the Daily News on Friday, “It’s not even an issue that’s relevant at this time.”

Turner, meanwhile, stood behind his words, defending them in an interview with Channel 11 News. When asked if the ad was insensitive, Turner said, “I think it’s more insensitive to try and build a mosque,” adding that, “This is a sore point, this area lost a lot of people.” Directly addressing criticism from the Weprin camp, the conservative struck a defiant tone. “Let them say what they want. We’re going to run this election honestly and squarely and let the chips fall where they may.”

As if the mosque debate weren’t contentious enough, Turner also stepped into hot water last week for his fluctuating position on government spending.

For weeks, he has criss-crossed the district and promised to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from serious cuts.

In a recently surfaced June op-ed in National Review Online, however, Turner, in addition to pledging his support for traditional Republican policy goals, articulated a stance on spending reduction that put him on the far-right of even his own party.

“My desire to go to Congress [is] to fix what’s broken and go home,” he wrote. “End subsidies. End government dependencies. Dramatically cut the budget by 30 or 35 percent, he wrote for the mostly-conservative audience.”

Some say that cutting the budget by 30 or 35 percent would, by necessity, mean a drastic restructuring of all those entitlements because they account for so much of federal appropriations.

Acknowledging just as much, Turner admitted in the Daily News to what he called “blatant political pandering,” adding that, in National Review, he was trying to reach, “a particular audience, a particular mind-set.”

He then reaffirmed his previous declarations of support for preserving the social safety net.

It is doubtful, however, that the conservative’s mea culpa will silence the Weprin campaign, which immediately seized on his comments and used them in political ads of their own.

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