The union behind the ad campaign that asked voters to “Stop Donald Trump and Republican William Petit’s attack on women and families,” is removing the ad from the Internet after outcry from both Petit and his opponent. But the group is not apologizing.
Paul Filson, executive director of the SEIU state council, who is the treasurer of Labor United for Connecticut, said he not apologizing for the “politics of the ad,” even though the PAC agreed to remove it following a press conference Petit held outside his Plainville home.
“Republicans running for the state House support Donald Trump’s platform,” Filson said. “They they have opposed policies like increases in the minimum wage and paid family leave, which help women, children and families.”
He said it’s fair to link Republicans in Connecticut to Donald Trump if they have not “condemned” him, but they understand how this ad may have been taken “personally” by Petit. The ad will be taken down Wednesday because it was “set to expire today, and it will not be renewed,” Filson said.
He added that it was not intended to “reference any personal history.”
Petit was the victim of a brutal 2007 home invasion that ended with two parolees murdering his wife and daughters. Following the ordeal, Petit created the Petit Family Foundation in memory of his family and dedicated the funds raised to help women and children.
“We tried to come up with programs that we felt would honor Jennifer, Hayley, and Michaela,” Petit said. “For a shadowy political organization to blatantly ignore that work and publish the despicable ad is reckless and also incomprehensible. It’s that win at all costs mentality.”
Numerous benefactors of the Petit Family Foundation, including former executive directors of Interval House, a women’s shelter, testified to his devotion to their cause.
“To post something that said I attack women and families was, I thought, about the lowest of blows,” Petit, who has not said who is supporting in the presidential contest, said. “It speaks to the foibles of human nature.”
Asked if he’s supporting Trump, Petit said “I haven’t made a decision yet.”
Petit said it’s obvious the PAC that paid for the ad doesn’t know anything about him.
“This is about a PAC that put up an ad that libels me,” Petit told reporters. “Nobody seems to care about that. That it’s libel.”
Petit said he’s talking to attorneys about a potential libel lawsuit.
Petit’s wife Christine said if the statement in the ad was printed in the newspaper it would be libel, but because it’s politics people view it as a “game. Well, that’s not a fair game.”
Mrs. Petit was the one of the first people to spot the ad, which was geotargeted to the Plainville House district. She posted about it on her Facebook page.
It’s a “terrible insult to me, the foundation, and the thousands of people who have worked to support the foundation. I thought we had to say something about it,” Dr. Petit said.
Petit said he knew he might get people telling him to “get a thicker skin” and “this is how it is,” but “I just didn’t want to tolerate a blatant lie like this.”
He said got into the race with the best of intentions and wants to focus on the issues.
Rep. Betty Boukus, who has represented the district for 22 years and was recently hospitalized with pneumonia, said she’s “horrified by the tasteless and offensive attack ad.”
Boukus showed up at Petit’s press conference, which was held at his Plainville home. After the press conference Boukus approached Petit and told him she was “horrified” and she will double check to make sure she hasn’t received any campaign donations from the group.
“It’s not right Bill. It’s not right,” Boukus said.
Labor United for Connecticut filed a report Wednesday showing it had spent $2,168.45 for digital ads in favor of Boukus’ candidacy. Since it can’t coordinate with Boukus’ campaign there’s no way for her to return the money.
The head of the largest labor coalition in Connecticut quickly condemned the ad.
Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, said the ads are “stunning and extremely distasteful.”
She was quick to point out that the AFL-CIO did not contribute to the Labor United for Connecticut PAC.
“While we have not endorsed any candidates in this particular state house race, we felt so strongly that the ad was repugnant that it required a response,” Pelletier said.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides who stood next to Petit Wednesday said the Democrats and their supporters are unable to campaign on their records and have no choice but to focus on Trump and the presidential contest when that has nothing to do with the General Assembly races.
“They are unable to talk about their record,” Klarides said. “They have a record. I am not tying members to the governor. I am telling you what they voted for.”
She said if the Democrats don’t like what Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has been doing then they shouldn’t have voted for it. She said Republicans in tying Democrats to Malloy are pointing out that he wouldn’t have be able to pass all this legislation without their help.
In her 18-year political career, Klarides said she has “have never felt so disgusted with an ad.” She said people have nightmares that are not as bad as what Petit went through in his real life and part of that journey is what made him want to run for office and set up his foundation.
But “to imply Dr. Petit has a problem with women and families is just despicable,” Klarides said.