- The Washington Times
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The close Senate race in Washington between longtime Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Tiffany Smiley has devolved into a battle over campaign ads containing sports T-shirts worn by military veterans.  

Retired Army Capt. Chris Franco’s wearing what seems to be an official Army physical-training shirt in a Murray campaign attack ad caused a group of fellow veterans to file a complaint with the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General over his appearance in the ad.

The Smiley campaign highlighted this IG complaint from these veterans in its latest statement after the Seattle Seahawks football team sent the Smiley camp a cease-and-desist letter over her “Game Day” ad that featured her husband, retired Army Ranger Scotty Smiley, wearing a Seahawks jersey.

In 2014, the Seahawks honored Mr. Smiley, the Army’s first blind active-duty officer, and had him raise the “12th Man” flag before kickoff.
He wore the jersey the team also gave him that day in one of his wife’s latest campaign ads, which hits Democrats on inflation and the price of game-day foods, prompting the team to complain.

The Smiley campaign blurred out the jersey’s logos in the reuploaded campaign ad. Nevertheless, she hit back at her political opponents. 

“While Patty Murray and her woke corporate allies make frivolous legal claims against Tiffany Smiley’s TV spots, it’s the Murray campaign who is actually breaking rules and regulations when it comes to her attack ads against Smiley,” the Smiley campaign said in a statement.

The Murray campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times about the IG complaint from the veterans.
A copy of the inspector general complaint, first obtained and reported by American Military News, shows that the group of 12 military veterans accused Mr. Franco of “improperly wearing the military uniform in furtherance of political activities.”

The complaint also accuses him of “using his rank, title, and military service to lend an inference of military support for a partisan political candidate” and of “using militaristic language to improperly suggest that the U.S. Army approves or endorses partisan political activity.”

The veterans also sent Ms. Murray a letter advising her of Mr. Franco’s uniform violation and criticized her for the attack ad, before calling on her to apologize for her lack of judgment and to remove it from the airwaves.  

Department of Defense Directive 1344.10 states that all military members, including retirees, are not allowed to wear military uniforms in political campaigns or at election events.

The Murray campaign ad, initially released Sept. 9, features Mr. Franco in a gray Army physical fitness training shirt as he relays the political message. He starts by saying, “I proudly served our nation and fought for freedom abroad.”

He then describes his disgust for the Jan. 6 rioters at the U.S. Capitol and for how “MAGA Republicans like Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate for U.S. Senate, Tiffany Smiley continue to question the 2020 election.”

The Army PT shirt is considered an official piece of Army uniform gear. Although the Army switched out the gray PT shirts for black PT shirts, the Army continues to license the gray ones, AMN noted. 

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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