Todd McKinley was a 2018 Republican Candidate for Congress in TN-01, he's a retired Army Paratrooper, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Presidential Service Badge recipient. He’s served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as well 6 ½ years at the White House Communications Agency & White House Military Office. He’s served as an Advance Representative for the Trump Administration, and as an Advance Representative for the 2020 Trump Campaign. Follow Todd: ; ; ; ;

Early voting in Tennessee started on July 17th and for those in Tennessee and Northeast Tennessee who until recently were saying that ‘the election thus far has been free of any major mudslinging’ are now dealing with a new reality. In fact, the attacks and lies have only increased as early voting was set to begin, this includes in Tennessee’s 1st Congressional District, my home district, but that’s a story for another day. Instead, I’ll only focus on the Senate race in Tennessee where Dr. Manny Sethi is making things remarkably interesting and has the momentum at just the right time. This has led Bill Hagerty to run false attack ads that are manufactured from thin air, while other ads are based on a fraction of a nugget of truth and stretched to the point where reality is nowhere in sight. However, instead of picking every attack ad apart, I’ll focus on a particular ad.

$50 is Apparently a “Bank Role”

The ad I want to call out in this article is the ad that features Joseph James from Hendersonville, Tennessee who’s a double amputee Afghanistan and Iraq War Veteran. Like Mr. James, I’m from Tennessee, I also served in the Army (20 years, and 29 days to be exact), I was also a Sergeant First Class and I served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, I have several friends and former Army colleagues who have been severely wounded in combat, while some never made it home. After this ad aired, a Veteran friend of mine from Middle Tennessee who lost a leg and part of his left hand in Iraq called me to discuss “this bogus ad” and wondered why Mr. James would put the integrity of Veterans in question. My friend also pointed out that Mr. James had weirdly deleted an entire year’s worth of Tweets from his Twitter account. Not sure what that’s about, but an interesting point.

This ad conveniently premiered the Thursday before early voting and showcases Mr. James standing next to the Sumner County Veteran Wall of Fame, wearing a Veteran/Military style hat w/ Velcroed on U.S. Flag, short sleeve shirt and shorts in order to ensure the viewer can see he’s a double amputee.

Before I point out the many issues with this ad, let me say that I appreciate the service and sacrifice made by Mr. James. Also, my issue isn’t with Mr. James being in a political ad, but the fact he allowed himself and his service to be used in this way by a desperate and dishonest campaign. The ad is dubbed “Patriot,” and last the usual thirty seconds, in it, Mr. James delivers the lines written on cue cards.

The full script reads, “After 9/11 I deployed four times to Iraq in Afghanistan. Our flag reminds me of the Patriots who gave their lives to defend America. Nobody should ever burn it, and I don’t trust Manny Sethi to stop them. Sethi has donated money to the organizations that has bankrolled these rioters aiding liberal extremists. Tennessee deserves a senator who respects our sacrifices and honors our flag. That is why I support Bill Haggerty.” Then Bill Hagerty delivers the legally obligated line, “I’m bill Haggerty and I approve this message.”

The Facts & Issues

In this thirty-second ad, instead of being positive, the Hagerty campaign chose to be extremely vague in their slanderous allegations. It’s apparent to me and according to Dr. Manny’s campaign chairman and senior adviser Chris Devaney, it seems this ad is referencing a small donation made to a family friend years ago. In other words, in April of 2008, a friend of Dr. Manny’s wife asked them to donate to his congressional campaign, to which they eventually made a $50 donation through the campaign’s website ActBlue. Speaking from experience, the $50 level was likely the lowest amount the website was set up to receive and the campaign likely received $45-$47 dollars of the $50 donation, while the rest went to ActBlue, which is how these donation platforms make money.

It boils down to this; a family friend of the Manny’s asked them to donate to his campaign and Dr. Manny and his wife felt obliged but gave the least amount the website likely allowed for. Now the Hagerty campaign wants us to believe that the $50 dollar donation where again, the campaign likely received $45-$47 of the donation, somehow means Dr. Manny “bankrolled these rioters” which are “aiding liberal extremists.”

Now, twelve years later, Dr. Manny is running for the United States Senate. Dr. Manny is a devout Christian, family man, philanthropist, Surgeon, and conservative who’s donated his time and services, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars in free healthcare to Tennesseans through his non-profit “Healthy Tennessee” and he’s donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates which includes a 2016 $10K donation to a PAC supporting Donald Trump. Now, we’re supposed to believe that a small donation to his wife’s college friend twelve years ago means Dr. Manny is funding “extremist,” I don’t think so.

There’s one thing the ad tells the truth about and it’s contained in a tiny footnote which cites an April 2008 donation which was reported by his friends’ campaign to the Federal Election Commission. However, this individual campaign donation isn’t at issue, it’s the donation platform (ActBlue) his friends’ campaign used. Apparently, in recent months ActBlue has allegedly donated money to the “rioters” and “liberal extremist,” which according to the Hagerty campaign means Dr. Manny is complicit as well. Now there’s a stretch if there ever was one.

Think about it, the campaign in question in 2008 used ActBlue to handle their online donations, which thousands of other campaigns have done. Now, in 2020 ActBlue allegedly has made donations to Democrats and somehow this token donation from 2008 is being called into question as if Dr. Manny had anything to do with ActBlue’s recent alleged decisions. Think about it, Bill Hagerty wants you to believe that Dr. Manny at present is a mastermind behind an effort to “bankroll” these “liberal extremist.” Bottom line this is like you or anyone else shopping at Target and Target 12 years later donating money to a questionable organization and you being blamed because you once shopped at Target.

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