Democrat Ben McAdams says a campaign ad from his Republican rival Burgess Owens is deceptive and dishonest.
The ad in question, which was rejected by the Deseret News, claims McAdams “was investigated by the FBI for corruption" when he was Salt Lake County Mayor. It is true that McAdams was the subject of an investigation in 2015 while he was Salt Lake County Mayor. The ad ignores the fact that he was ultimately cleared in that probe, while his accuser pleaded guilty to fraud.
“These are complete falsehoods and they’re attacking my integrity,” said McAdams during a Thursday morning press conference. “I think this crosses a line.”
The ad is similar to one tweeted out by Owens.
The issue came to light on Wednesday evening when Owens, during a guest appearance on Fox News Channel, claimed the Deseret News was refusing to run his ads for the rest of the election.
Owens told host Laura Ingraham “I have a news flash and this kind of gives you an idea where our country is at this point. An hour before coming to the show, we got an email from Deseret News, a major news outlet here that they are ceasing our advertisements five days before the election. They decided to pull our ads. I have no idea why.”
The Deseret News said in a statement issued Wednesday that they have not ceased taking advertising from Owens or any candidate.
“Advertisements posted this week on Deseret.com on behalf of Owens fell short of our advertising standards,” read the statement. “The Deseret News on Wednesday reached out to Owens' campaign representatives. A meeting was set even before Owens' appearance on Fox News to discuss how to bring the ads into compliance.”
The publication has paused the ad campaign until alterations can be made to the artwork.
Owens' campaign said the Deseret News was “actively meddling in the electoral process" by rejecting the ads.
“This is outrageous,” said spokesperson Jesse Ranney in an email statement.
“For the Deseret News to put their fingers on the scale is an assault on the Owens campaign and an unseemly use of influence to protect Democrat Ben McAdams. It is little wonder why voters have such a low opinion of the ‘news’ when powerful owners use newspapers to protect those in power,” the statement continued.
In 2015, McAdams accused former state Rep. Justin Miller of stealing thousands of dollars from his campaign for Salt Lake County mayor. Miller, in turn, claimed McAdams had abused his power and funneled county contracts to campaign contributors.
McAdams was cleared by the FBI after a months-long investigation. Miller, his accuser, resigned his Utah House seat and pleaded guilty to fraud.
“They are taking and twisting facts in a way to attack me,” said McAdams. “These lies have no place in politics, and that’s exactly what’s broken in our system.”
The most recent polling shows the race is a virtual tie, with Owens holding a one-point lead.