Pennsylvania Republicans went after Democratic Senate hopeful Katie McGinty on Monday over a reported comment she made to a local paper that labeled voters outside of the state's large cities as "misinformed."
Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent reported last Wednesday that McGinty "has found an alarming undercurrent of misinformed people in the ‘T' part of the state," a geographic term that refers to the entire state outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and is known to be the home to the state's more conservative voters.
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Congressmen Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) wrote a letter to McGinty on Monday, six days after the article was published, that took issue with the comment and demanded an apology for her "insult" to "millions of Pennsylvanians."
"We are incredibly disappointed by your offensive statements about our great commonwealth in your recent Jewish Exponent interview, where you dismiss those of us who live outside of Philadelphia–an area you refer to as the ‘T'–as featuring ‘an alarming undercurrent of misinformed people,'" wrote the letter from Pitts, which was co-signed by 17 other state politicians.
Though McGinty had already promoted the story on her official Twitter account, her campaign contacted the Jewish Exponent after Republicans seized on the comment to get the paragraph removed, arguing that the comment was misattributed to McGinty and that she never said that.
The McGinty campaign eventually got its way.
The Jewish Exponent said that the remark about "misinformed" people in the article was based on interpretation and not a direct quote.
"While the Exponent’s interview of Katie McGinty did touch on the nature of the voting public in the rural parts of the state, a detailed analysis of our reporter’s recording and notes could not justify attributing to McGinty, even in paraphrase, assertions that were in the original story," said Joshua Runyan, the paper's editor-in-chief. "For that reason, those assertions were removed in a subsequent version of the story online."
The article was initially changed on Monday afternoon to say that McGinty "has found people in the ‘T' part of the state outside the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Jewish strongholds are unaware of BDS' dangers," referring to an anti-Israel campaign to economically boycott the Jewish state.
This was the original paragraph referring to the BDS campaign (emphasis added):
"It’s really so dangerous, so misdirected," said McGinty, who has found an alarming undercurrent of misinformed people in the ‘T' part of the state outside the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Jewish strongholds. "I am 100 percent opposed and shocked. It could not be more ill-conceived."
It was changed to this:
"It’s really so dangerous, so misdirected," said McGinty, who has found people in the "T" part of the state outside the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Harrisburg Jewish strongholds are unaware of BDS' dangers. "I am 100 percent opposed and shocked. It could not be more ill-conceived."
This was apparently insufficient. The paragraph, as it stands now, just plainly states the quote without any added comment:
"It's really so dangerous, so misdirected," said McGinty. "I am 100 percent opposed and shocked. It could not be more ill-conceived."
It is noted at the bottom of the article that it was updated "to reflect the fact that statements earlier attributed to Katie McGinty regarding rural voters in Pennsylvania has been corrected."
A transcript of the interview provided by the Jewish Exponent shows that McGinty never exactly said that voters in the "T" were misinformed. The reporter asked, "When you go out to some of those places in the T, as opposed to [in Philadelphia], what is their feeling of what’s going on [in Israel]?"
"I think, well, I won’t speak for other people in terms of how much it—I guess I would say I think that needs to be more deeply, at a visceral level, understood by the people of this country," responded McGinty, after stating that she has always believed that "Israel is an absolutely essential, vital partner and ally for the United States of America."
Republicans are not giving up on the attack, despite the correction.
"McGinty should apologize for calling millions of Pennsylvanians living outside Philadelphia ‘misinformed’ or simply release the audio of her interview if it was mischaracterized," said Ted Kwong, a spokesman for Republican Pat Toomey's reelection campaign in a Tuesday statement.
The McGinty campaign denied a Washington Free Beacon request for it to share its audio recording of the interview and is choosing not to engage Republicans on the issue.
"The Jewish Exponent has issued a correction and noted that comments included in the initial story were unfortunately misattributed Katie," campaign spokesman Sabrina Singh told the Free Beacon.
The Toomey campaign is asking why it took so long for McGinty to take issue with the Jewish Exponent misrepresenting her words.
"After proudly sharing the article on social media, why did it take a letter from elected officials across the Commonwealth, and three whole days for McGinty to decide she actually didn't intend to insult the millions of Pennsylvanians that live outside of her hometown of Philadelphia?" said Kwong.
Republicans are using the issue to pivot back to the 2008 comment by President Barack Obama, who endorsed McGinty last week, who said that that Pennsylvanians "cling to guns or religion."
They are also using it to portray McGinty as out of touch with the majority of the state.
"We recognize that your career in Washington, D.C., and in Gov. Wolf’s administration, as well as your experience on various corporate energy boards, might not have adequately exposed you to the rest of our commonwealth," wrote Republican lawmakers in their letter to McGinty. "In light of your unfortunate assessment, it is clear that you have much to learn about the majority of Pennsylvanians who live outside of Philadelphia."