A scurrilous and offensive lie

A scurrilous and offensive lie

- in Fitzsimon File

The 2010 campaign reached a new and pathetic low this week as the State Republican Party produced a flyer attacking Democratic legislative candidates as "criminal coddlers" for supporting the Racial Justice Act.

The flyer shows a masked man breaking into a house with a crowbar with the words "meet your new neighbors" across the picture. The next page shows mug shots of two death row inmates under a headline that says thanks to the whatever Democrat the Republicans are targeting, death row inmates could leave prison early and move in next door.

One of the Democrats targeted as a "criminal coddler" by the ads is House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman, whose daughter was murdered 25 years ago. Holliman witnessed the execution of the man convicted of the crime in 1998.

Holliman has asked for an apology from Republican officials and demanded that his Republican opponent distance herself from the ad, though neither is likely.

GOP Chair Tom Fetzer told the Winston-Salem Journal that nobody at the Republican Party knew that Holliman's daughter was murdered, which is almost impossible to believe. It has been widely reported and every member of the General Assembly certainly knows.

Fetzer also said that the Republicans aren't the ones who brought it up, which almost makes less sense than saying nobody knew about it. The GOP is attacking a man whose daughter was murdered as soft on crime and claiming that he has made it possible for people to leave death row and move into your neighborhood. Of course the Republicans brought it up.

Fetzer also tried to deflect criticism for targeting Holliman by point out that other Democrats will be attacked with the same ad.

That raises a point that's been all but lost in the discussion of how offensive and emotionally wrenching the ad must be to Holliman and his family.

The ad is a bald-faced lie.

The Racial Justice Act allows defendants currently on death row to appeal their sentences based on statistical evidence of racial bias. If a court grants the appeal, their sentence is changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

No one will be released from death row because of the Racial Justice Act. No one.

Some media outlets, including the Raleigh News & Observer, did not bother to point that out in their stories, doing a grave disservice to their readers.

State Democratic Party Executive Director Andrew Whalen called the ad a "return to the politics of fear, based on race," and he's right. Whalen also said that he had heard reports that some senior citizens were panicked after receiving the flyer, worried that death row inmates might actually be moving close to them.

That must make Fetzer and his fellow Republicans awfully proud, scaring people with offensive lies to win an election.

The whole episode actually ought to make us all afraid, considering what might happen if the people who produced this garbage take over the General Assembly in November.