After U.S. Rep. Allen West last week plastered Patrick Murphy's arrest photo all over local TV in ads, the congressman's Democratic rival fired back Tuesday in an ad decrying West's military record.
The Murphy TV spot responds to West's ad, which spotlighted Murphy's arrest when he was 19 years old for disorderly intoxication with a fake ID outside a Miami club in 2003. The charges were dropped.
Murphy attacks West in the ad for his military conduct in 2003, citing media reports on West that during his service he "performed illegal acts," "merited court martial," and "faced 11 years in prison." The ad doesn't spell out the details of the now well-documented incident during West's service in Iraq.
While serving as a battalion commander in Iraq in 2003, the Palm Beach Gardens Republican fired a gun near a prisoner's head to scare the prisoner into giving up information on ambush plans. He was fined $5,000 for misconduct and assault. The Army opted against a court martial, however, and he was honorably discharged with benefits.
After the ruling, supporters across the Internet painted West, a retired lieutenant colonel, as a military hero and victim of the system. Opponents blogged about how West should have been a war criminal and ended up in prison.
"I would encourage people to do their own research on what he did in the military, why he left and what really happened there," Murphy said after a Fort Pierce event Sunday.
West recently bought an ad in which veterans rip Murphy for calling West a "coward" and for not serving in the military.
"I stand by the actions I took to protect the lives of my men in Iraq in 2003," West said in a release Tuesday. "I paid a small fine for breaking rules in an effort to save the lives of my men."
Democrats have advised against attacking West on his military career. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said on its website until recently that "attacks on Allen West's military record are not effective." Super PACs and other groups can use the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee page to collect talking points.
The committee's spokeswoman Stephanie Formas agreed with Murphy that in the District 18 race, West's ad opened the door to his military record. West's ad begins by saying he was training in Fort Hood, Texas, in 2003 the night Murphy was arrested. It doesn't indicate how old Murphy was.
"Unfortunately, Congressman West is now misrepresenting his record from 2003, and now has to answer for the truth about being relieved of his command," Formas said.