A Bush-Cheney campaign decision to oust an abortion-rights supporter from a Michigan rally has turned into a cash cow for NARAL Pro-Choice America.
On Aug. 5, Barbara Miller of Midland, Mich. — along with her husband and 19-year-old daughter — was kicked out of Bush campaign rally in her hometown for wearing a T-shirt with the logo of NARAL, the leading abortion-rights advocacy group.
In short order, NARAL officials convinced the 50-year-old Dow chemist to help them sell more of the offending T-shirts.
An e-mail signed by Miller was sent out Monday, primarily to activists. The appeal brought in $10,000 for NARAL in just the first day — two-thirds of which came from people who have never given to the group before, NARAL spokesman David Seldin said.
The e-mail — which urged supporters to “Get the shirt that will get YOU booted from a Bush rally” — cost $30 each. The shirts also say, “It’s your choice … not theirs.”
Miller wrote in the e-mail that “when NARAL Pro-Choice America called and asked me to help them elect a pro-choice president by telling my story, I didn’t hesitate. … Show Bush he can’t tell us what to do with our reproductive health and he can’t tell us what to wear.”
Seldin said it was a spur-of-the-moment decision by NARAL officials to contact Miller. He added that NARAL was shocked at the overwhelming response they got.
“It clearly struck a nerve with our activists,” Seldin said.
Miller — who described herself in an interview as a “swing vote” in the swing state — said she was simply carrying the T-shirt into the event in case she got cold in the auditorium where Bush was scheduled to speak. But campaign officials at the door confiscated it.
Miller said she was told, “We don’t want any pro-choice, non-Republican paraphernalia at this event.”
“It was a surprise to me that if you’re pro-choice, you cannot be a Republican and vote for Bush,” Miller said.
Still, Miller and her family were allowed to take their seats. After sitting in the event for over an hour waiting for Bush to arrive, a couple of campaign staffers sought out the Millers and asked them to leave, she said. At one point, the staffers threatened to bring over the Secret Service, and warned her they they might take the Millers to jail.
“We had no choice,” said Miller. “It was very embarrassing and humiliating to me in my home town.”
Miller said one young male campaign staffer loudly announced to the crowd, “‘She’s trying to smuggle in anti-Bush T-shirts.’”
Bush campaign officials did not return a call seeking comment, but campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Millerwise told the Saginaw News that the Bush campaign reserves the right to expel people whom they suspect of wanting to make a scene at campaign appearances.
“Sadly, there are people who try to enter these events with the goal of disrupting these events for people who have worked so hard and want to hear the president speak,” Millerwise reportedly said.
But Miller — who said she votes “50 percent of the time” for Republicans but had been leaning toward voting for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) — said she got the tickets to the Bush event from her local Republican Party headquarters after showing her identification and identifying her guests, she said.
The family had planned to hear Bush speak and then go to dinner afterwards to discuss what they’d heard.
“We were really going there to listen,” said Miller. “I’m a 50 year-old chemist and a mom, and I just wanted to see my president.”