Fact-Checking Issa and Applegate on 9/11 Ads

The two have been feuding about Issa's 2008 comments about the attacks

An ad from Democrat Douglas Applegate features a 9/11 first responder who says Rep. Darrell Issa and tea party Republicans “played politics with our lives.” (Screengrab from ad)
An ad from Democrat Douglas Applegate features a 9/11 first responder who says Rep. Darrell Issa and tea party Republicans “played politics with our lives.” (Screengrab from ad)
Posted October 7, 2016 at 1:45pm

California Rep. Darrell Issa and his Democratic opponent are feuding over Issa’s previous comments about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and his commitment to first responders.

Earlier this week, Doug Applegate, a retired Marine colonel who is running against Issa, released an advertisement featuring Jaime Hazan, a 9/11 first responder.

Darrell Issa and the tea party Republicans tried to play politics with our lives,” Hazan says in the ad, over images of Issa, Rep. Steve Scalise and former Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Hazan then says Issa voted against giving health care to first responders and quotes the congressman allegedly saying that “he’d done enough” for something that was “simply a plane crash.”

But the ad plays loose with the timeline — the vote cited came two years after Issa made the remarks, when Issa and 156 other House Republicans voted against the James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation Act.

In 2008, Issa was criticized for saying the attacks were not the result of a dirty bomb, dismissing the health effects.

“It simply was an aircraft, residue of the aircraft and residue of the materials used to build this building,” Issa said at a congressional hearing.

After being hit with scorn and criticism from all sides, including from his own party, Issa released a statement saying, “I continue to support federal assistance for victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.”

[Darrell Issa’s Challenger Opens Up Lead in Democratic Poll]

In a statement released Tuesday, Issa’s campaign said Applegate “doctored quotes in his ads to mislead California voters,” and called his actions “disgusting” and “desperate.”

In response to Applegate’s ad, the Issa campaign released its own ad that recalls his personal experience on the day of the attacks when he chose not to evacuate his congressional office to show that Congress would act in a nonpartisan way.

The campaign also rebutted the ad in its Tuesday statement, saying that Issa “voted to support those directly affected by 9/11 in Congress on at least eight separate occasions.”

Roll Call looked at those eight votes cited. Two are directly related to those affected by the attacks: his 2015 vote to reauthorize spending for the original Zadroga Act and his vote from 2001 to expedite payment of benefits to public safety officers.

But another of the votes Issa cites is his vote to authorize military force against al-Qaida. Another vote was for a joint resolution from two days after the attacks that was simply titled “Expressing the sense of the Senate and House of Representatives regarding the terrorist attacks launched against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001,” which put forward no money or assistance to first responders.

Two other votes that directly dealt with benefits included one from two days after the attacks that provided tax relief to victims and their families.

The other vote from October 2001 was to increase the benefits of officers killed in the line of duty, not necessarily to those who survived.

Another vote that Issa cited was from the fifth anniversary of the attacks and was a vote “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives” that, again, put forth no direct assistance. The final vote cited was from 2009, which was to create a National Day of Service and Remembrance for victims of the attacks.

This is the first real challenge Issa has gotten in his eight terms in the House, and Applegate has received assistance from national Democrats. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added his campaign to their Red to Blue program, and released a poll earlier this week showing Applegate beating Issa by 4 points.

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call recently changed its race rating from Safe Republican to Republican Favored.