McSally ad lies to denigrate the First Amendment rights of Americans


We have all seen, ad nauseam, the political attack ads from Martha McSally against Kirsten Sinema. The message of the ad is not as important as the imagery it seeks to convey in the ads. McSally wants to portray Sinema as some “lefty looney” in a pink tutu in contrast to her bad-ass “woman warrior” in a flight suit.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 2.08.54 PM

If a male candidate were running these ads against Sinema it would be pilloried as sexist and misogynist … because it is. A woman running this ad against another woman should not get a pass just because she is a woman.

There is also the subtext of the McSally ad objecting to Sinema having exercised her constitutional First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly to petition the government in opposition to the Iraq War — an unnecessary and illegal war sold by the Bush administration with falsified intelligence of “weapons of mass destruction” and war fever propaganda from the Bush administration.

Millions of Americans, and millions of people around the world, marched in protest and opposition to the Iraq War. McSally wants to convey the Bush administration view that “You are either with us, or you are against us,” i.e.,  you either support this unnecessary and illegal war, or you support “the enemy,” a false dichotomy designed to question the loyalty and patriotism of Americans who opposed the Iraq War, as it turned out, quite rightly so.

Apparently McSally is still bitter and resentful  of Americans’ opposition to the Iraq War. Too bad. Get over it, lady.

But McSally does not stop there, on no. Her attack ads go a step further and claim that Sinema “denigrated the service” of members of the military in her protest. Politifact rates this claim false, unsupported by any evidence. You’re shocked, I’m sure! Did Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema protest troops in a pink tutu and denigrated their service?

Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally in a campaign ad paints herself as a stark contrast with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, her Democratic opponent in the race for Arizona’s open seat in the U.S. Senate.

Side-by-side pictures show McSally in military uniform and Sinema in a pink tutu.

The ad highlights McSally’s service as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and portrays Sinema as unpatriotic and out-of-touch with global threats.

McSally’s Aug. 23 campaign ad said:

“Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. I was deployed to the Middle East. Led airstrikes against the Taliban and was the first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat. I know the price of freedom.

“While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service. The world is a dangerous place. We need strong leaders who understand the threat and respect our troops. Kyrsten Sinema fails the test.”

PolitiFact wondered about McSally’s claim that Sinema protested troops in a pink tutu, “denigrating our service.”

Sinema was a law student at the time who participated in a series of vigils and anti-war protests in Arizona. In at least one of those instances, she wore what looks like a pink tutu. The 2003 event coincided with Women’s International Day, included live music and dancing, and other attendees also wore pink outfits. Sinema described the event as “an expression of creativity and of self.”

Sinema’s pink tutu photo has been used against her in previous races for public office, and it’s a real photo. But we didn’t find evidence that Sinema denigrated the service of military members, as McSally’s ad claimed.

Sinema’s anti-war protests

Sinema was a law student at Arizona State University when she was quotedin student newspaper articles as an organizer of protests against the Iraq, which former President George W. Bush ordered March 19, 2003.

Six days earlier, an article detailed Sinema’s participation in a Phoenix rally called “No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity” that coincided with International Women’s Day. “Flurries of pink — the color of International Women’s Day — highlight the shirts and skirts and socks of demonstrators,” the article said.

The article said Sinema wore “a neon-pink shirt and something resembling a pink tutu.”

Sinema told the newspaper, “You protest when you feel like you’re not being heard. To make yourself heard, you have to do something out of the ordinary. There, inherently, is this expression of creativity that comes with protests, so you can say, ‘I am important. I am a human.'”

The articles don’t quote Sinema as saying anything specifically against the troops. Her comments center on Bush’s policy.

“Since Bush has taken office, he has rolled back civil liberties and provoked war against Iraq. We couldn’t not protest,” Sinema said in a September 2002 student newspaper article.

Other media reports from early 2000s

The Arizona Republic published a story in February 2002 about silent vigils in Phoenix against war and the abuse of women worldwide. Sinema is quoted as saying that the vigils will continue “til there’s no more war.”

The story also quotes an ASU professor as saying that the vigils seek to raise awareness about the victims of war, which included the poor, women and “yes, soldiers.”

The Arizona Republic included the voice an 18-year-old who was planning to enlist in the Marine Corps. “Everybody has their own opinion,” Steve Sullivan told the newspaper. “I’m not offended at all. It’s great they come out and protest.”

Sinema told the Associated Press for a story on anti-war protesters that a lot of people were worried about the future and felt isolated. “We just want people who are sad, upset, devastated or confused about the war to have a place to meet and be comforted by other people who feel the same way,” Sinema said in March 2003.

Sinema campaign responds

Sinema’s campaign today says she also supported U.S. troops.

“Kyrsten has always supported our service members,” Helen Hare, a spokeswoman for Sinema’s campaign told PolitiFact. “Reporting from the time confirms that while she spoke out against the war, she also voiced her respect for those who serve — like the members of her family.”

The photo in question is from a 2003 protest, it did not happen on 9/11, contrary to what the ad may imply, her campaign said.

Sinema’s campaign also pointed to an Arizona Republic March 2003 article about vigils in opposition to the Iraq war. Sinema told the newspaper that they wanted “to respect and honor those who would be killed. We want those lives to not be sacrificed.”

Sinema’s campaign said that her older brother enlisted in the Marines in 1991 and left active duty in 1999; and her younger brother enlisted in the Navy in 2005 and is still on active duty. Sinema has also voted in favor of bills authorizing funding for the military and pay raises for troops, and co-sponsored bills to help veterans receive benefits, her campaign said.

In fact, Sinema has responded with a new television ad about her record of support for the military and veterans heavy on the military imagery (not currently available online).

Our ruling

McSally in a campaign ad said, “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service.”

After 9/11, Sinema led protests against the war in Iraq. At a 2003 rally called “No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity,” Sinema wore a pink tutu. Media reports of the rallies in 2002 and 2003 quote Sinema as opposing the war and the Bush administration’s policy, but we found no evidence of her disparaging troops.

McSally’s statement contains an element of truth — apparently what Sinema was wearing? — but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Sorry, but no. I call bullshit. It is simply False. Period.

Laurie Roberts of The Republic adds, Martha McSally’s pink tutu attack ad on Kyrsten Sinema is ‘mostly false:

One would think a former fighter pilot would use more precision in her attacks, especially given that they seem to be the centerpiece of her campaign.

The now mostly-debunked centerpiece of her campaign.

Certainly, the 15-year-old images of Sinema in her tutu next to McSally in her uniform make for a strong contrast.

But they’ve been running for two weeks now and early voting begins in a month and surely there is more to talk about in this all-important race.

Perhaps McSally could explain her recent transformation to immigration hardliner as she now vies for the hearts and votes of the moderate middle.

Kyrsten Sinema may have worn the tutu 15 years ago, but why do I get the feeling that Martha McSally is the one now doing a tap dance?

McSally lies as much as “Dear Leader” Donald Trump, and that says something about her lack of honesty and character.

Support volunteer citizen journalism at the Blog for Arizona with a donation today. Your secure contribution keeps the Blog online and sustains a free press in Arizona.


  1. “So McSally is mocking Sinema for being against the Iraq war…”


    McSally is also mocking Sinema because she is beautiful.

    The ad is intended to make a beautiful woman look ridiculous and also serves McSally’s purpose of promoting herself as a Warrior Princess (where beauty is a non-issue).

      • That makes sense. McSally is running a one note campaign, all she has is her military past, the rest is fear and hate, so she’s making Sinema look like a princess.

        McSally did make the big time, here’s a link.

        Sinema’s my rep now, but I’ve never voted for her, I’m not a fan, in the past I’ve left the ballot unchecked next to her name.

        But I’m voting for her this time.

        When she wins she needs to include a thank you to Donald Trump in her speech.

        • McSally was attacking Sinema in social media several weeks before the primary and it was clear to me she was going to go after Sinema’s good looks.

          And I bet that she thinks the tutu ad is just brilliant, it accomplishes so many of her goals:
          1. Distract from her legislative career consisting of zero accomplishments.
          2. Promote her military career and her Warrior Princess persona that is totally irrelevant.
          3. Imply falsehoods about Sinema’s positions with regard to the military, veterans, etc…

          And perhaps the most important…

          4. Attempt to replace the visual image of a beautiful 42 year old woman with a different image that diminishes her.

          Yes indeed, being more than ten years older, short and not particularly attractive is a problem that Martha et al quite realistically predicted.

          Ha, I was thinking that Sinema’s response could be based on this old Pantene commercial but that wouldn’t play well in politics. It would, however, be spot on.

          • Old, short and not attractive is an attack that most feminists would go ballistic over. But wait, you are attacking a Republican, so liberal hypocrisy permits it.

            By the way, when is anyone on BfA going to attack Fontes for screwing up the election and hiding from public accountability?

          • Sorry for a few typos before.
            McSally was asked 3 times by a reporter recently if Donald Trump is truthful. She failed to respond
            She wants to get his voters, but can’t figure out which way the wind blows, since she must now move back to the middle in order to get moderates who are turned off by Trump.
            So take the focus on her and put out mistruths and distortions about her opponent. The people want to know what legislation your for and if you are going to be a rubber stamp for Trump. I think most Arizonans don’t want that.
            Sinema better start running ads and talking to the media, too. She’s been shy about that as a congresswoman. I’ve rarely seen her on local TV and she doesn’t do town halls. Time to come out and show herself. This is the Senate you’re running for.

          • I agree, Brent. Kyrsten has been developing statewide name recognition with her safe TV ads and now it’s time to kick it up a notch.

            At this point I think it is to Ms. Sinema’s credit that she hasn’t taken McSally’s bait in either social media or mainstream media. McSally would love for this race to descend into a girl fight that avoided any focus on her dismal record as a legislator and representative.

            But it’s a red state and a Republican can be elected based on absolutely nothing other than being a Republican.

            So, yeah, Kyrsten needs to get out there and fight for this in a very public way and not be shy.

          • There will likely be a vote in the House this week on more tax cuts. That will had more trillions to the deficit/debt. It will be interesting to see how McSally votes. A story came out today detailing how much our deficit is growing, due to the corporate tax cuts, plus retiring Baby Boomers taking Social Security and Medicare. We can’t afford to keep putting tax cuts on a credit card. It will come back to haunt us in not too distant future.

          • @John Kavanaugh, I don’t think you would feminists who approve of McSally’s tutu ad. If only you could be offended by such an offensive ad rather than my description of McSally who invited the comparison.

          • So the feminists you know are OK with attacking a woman’s age, height and attractiveness. They sound more like misogynistic pigs but I will defer to your feminist expertise.

  2. Sinema needs to respond to these ads and one that lies about her being for sanctuary cities when he voted against sanctuary cites in 2015. Where are ads responding to the false claims?
    Although I respect McSally’s service I don’t respect her views on much of Trump’s legislation. He sucks to him and refused to mention McCain’s name when the latest defense bill had his name on it.’
    McSally is an “empty suit” who changes views as much as the wind charges direction. She won’t stand up to Trump.

  3. So McSally is mocking Sinema for being against the Iraq war, and Trump has said he was against the war…

    One can only assume that Martha McSally is against Donald J. Trump.

    The GOP, not thinking things through since 1980.

Comments are closed.