Murphy Brown, call your office. Just when you thought the hilarious gaffe by the congressional campaign of Dan Quayle’s son Ben had run its course, instead it gets a bit odder. By now you probably know the particulars. An Arizona publication broke a story on its blog on 8/3 about Ben Quayle campaign mailers:
Quayle is depicted in playful scenes with two toddler-aged girls. Underneath one image, the text reads, in part: “Tiffany and I live in this district and we are going to raise our family here.” … It’s not a stretch to make the assumption that the cute tots - one sitting on his lap; the other sitting next to him - are his daughters. But that’s not the case. The recently married Quayle doesn’t have kids.
Asked for a comment, the campaign replied:
“I think you guys have got a lot of time on your hands,” said Quayle campaign spokesman Damon Moley. “They’re just terribly cute kids.” The girls, he said, are relatives of a staff member and happened to be at a campaign event.
The next day, as the story went national and made Ben Quayle look either deceitful or bumbling, the Arizona Capital Times blog updated its post with a new explanation from a different campaign spokesperson of who the girls are:
UPDATE (Aug. 4): The Quayle campaign informed the Arizona Capitol Times that it initially provided inaccurate information about the kids. The girls are actually Quayle’s nieces, said spokeswoman Megan Rose, which she added is further evidence that Quayle was not intending to mislead voters about his family status.
A humorous indication of a campaign with about as much rapid response ability as his Dad’s old shop, but the end of the story, right? It’s not like he was trying to suggest those were his kids, right?
Not quite. It seems someone took a minute to review Ben Quayle’s campaign Facebook page, and sure enough, under a photo album called “Family,” the first of the 5 pictures in that album was the same photo of Ben with the little girls.
An Arizona TV news anchor and reporter tweeted about this, and I saw it hit my Twitter feed. Given that I had just posted, hours before the rent-a-family story went national, a piece urging GOP voters in CD3 to pick a candidate other than Ben Quayle, I clicked on the link to Quayle’s Facebook photo album.
Now this was before we learned that these were his nieces, so I was stunned by the photo appearing in an album titled “Family.” If they are not his relatives, I thought, he is toast.
I was so concerned I was being tricked by a fake Ben Quayle Facebook page that I went back and found his Facebook page again in a new Firefox tab to make sure I was going to the genuine Ben Quayle Campaign Facebook page. It was the same address. But now, when the page popped up again, the photo of the girls had a caption with it: “Ben with his Nieces”!
Just a few minutes had elapsed, but the page had been changed to add the caption. Facebook still said the photo album had been “Updated about 5 months ago,” so again I doubted my own eyes. I went to my own Facebook page and added a caption to an old photo, confirming that when you add a caption to an old photo, Facebook does not change the “updated” time on the photo album page.
The bottom line? For five months, until early voting had already started, the first photo of Ben Quayle’s “Family” campaign Facebook photo album was of him with two unidentified little girls – even before photos of him with his wife, parents or siblings. And only after he was called out on his misleading mail pieces did a staffer hurriedly add a caption to undercut the charge that he was trying to address a major weakness – that he lacks the life experience to serve in Congress – by letting people assume he is not just some young adult bouncing around jobs but is a committed father.
I’m glad those little girls are his nieces rather than campaign props, as his own campaign had first suggested. But it is not reassuring, with an inexperienced president currently bungling our nation’s economy and national security, that Ben Quayle’s campaign seems acutely aware of how inexperienced he is. From the photo he looks like an attentive uncle, but as my previous essay outlined, he is not the best choice for Republicans this year. The November election in CD3 should be about Obama and Pelosi, not the Quayles.
[Click here for a short video of the screen shots, with and without the caption.]