LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor's campaign said Tuesday it's removing portions of online videos that were shot on property destroyed in a deadly Arkansas tornado after its owner said he was misled about the footage's use.
Doug Boydston complained about the video featuring footage shot on the Mayflower RV property that was destroyed by a deadly tornado in April, saying he wasn't told it would be used as a political attack against Republican challenger and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton. Pryor's campaign denied that it misled Boydston.
Boydston's complaints were aired in a letter that was released by Cotton's campaign.
"You obtained this footage under false pretenses and I demand that you remove these videos and immediately stop all use of the raw footage," Boydston said in the letter to Pryor's campaign.
Boydston said he had agreed to allow Pryor's campaign to shoot video on the property last month, but said he was under the impression it was to draw attention to cleanup efforts in Mayflower. Pryor's campaign last week posted the video, which features interviews with Mayor Randy Holland and other community leaders criticizing Cotton over his past votes against disaster aid and accusing him of being absent from Mayflower and Vilonia in the tornado's aftermath. The April 27 storms that hit Arkansas are blamed for 16 deaths and caused millions of dollars in damage.
"I didn't think it was going to be a political ad," Boydston said.
Pryor's campaign said it was upfront with Boydston about the reason for shooting the video, but said it would remove any footage of his property from the ad.
"Out of respect for this gentleman's wishes that were expressed today for the first time we will edit out anything that was shot on his property," said Erik Dorey, Pryor's deputy campaign manager.
Disaster relief has been a major issue in the Senate race, with Pryor and Democrats criticizing Cotton for opposing relief for the northeast states hit by Superstorm Sandy. Cotton on Tuesday launched a six-figure television ad buy featuring County Sheriff Andy Shock defending Cotton's record on disaster relief, citing votes he's cast for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's funding.
Cotton's campaign criticized Pryor over the online videos, while Dorey accused Cotton of trying to distract voters from his record.
The increasingly expensive race in Arkansas is closely watched because Republicans need a net gain of six seats in November to capture majority control of the Senate. Top-tier GOP targets are the Republican-leaning Southern states — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Obama is unpopular and incumbent Democratic senators are struggling to hold onto their seats.
The tussle over the footage came as Pryor's campaign continued criticizing Cotton for saying the Democratic senator believes "faith is something that only happens at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings." Pryor launched a six-figure television ad buy focusing on the comments, which Pryor has called a personal attack on his faith.
Cotton made the comments last week about the Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that family-owned companies don't have to provide insurance coverage for contraception. His campaign has said the remarks were directed at the federal health care law, and not Pryor's faith.
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