SEDALIA — Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt pulled down an Internet campaign video Thursday showing World Trade Center rubble and an assertion that his Democratic Senate opponent Robin Carnahan won't oppose building a mosque near ground zero.
Blunt said he wasn't aware the video had been posted overnight on his campaign's YouTube site, adding it quickly was changed because the image from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was drawing attention away from other issues. Carnahan called the video a shameful political exploitation of the terrorist attacks.
The controversy over the video arose Thursday morning as both Blunt and Carnahan were campaigning under a big-top tent at the Missouri State Fair, where they shook hands with hundreds of people attending the governor's annual ham breakfast. The Senate candidates, who are seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Kit Bond, generally kept apart from each other in the large crowd.
Politicians across the country have been weighing in on a proposal to build a $100 million Islamic center two blocks from the World Trade Center site, where more than 2,700 people died in attacks by Islamic terrorists.
President Barack Obama has said he believes Muslims have a right to build an Islamic center in New York as a matter of religious freedom, though he's also said he won't take a position on whether they actually should build it.
Blunt's campaign video showed a photo of the destroyed World Trade Center overlaid with the words "Robin Carnahan Won't Oppose Controversial Ground Zero Mosque." Meanwhile, the video played a clip taken from a radio interview Wednesday in which Carnahan said she didn't want to tell New Yorkers whether a mosque should be built near ground zero.
The video was changed Thursday to show a photo of Carnahan with Obama instead of rubble from the Sept. 11 attacks, but the printed screen message and audio excerpt from Carnahan remained the same.
Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer said someone on the campaign "got carried away" in making the original video. He said it was replaced because "it didn't reflect the right tone."
"It was down before I knew it was up," Blunt said. "Anything that distracts from the real discussions here of the issues is something we shouldn't be involved in. And the truth is, on the mosque, she and I have different positions."
Carnahan, Missouri's secretary of state, said Thursday that the federal government should stay out of the decision-making process by local New York officials on whether to allow a mosque near the World Trade Center site. But she suggested it was a poor idea to build it there.
"Just because you can build it — and they can build it, there's a constitutional right, freedom of religion — doesn't mean they should," Carnahan said in an interview at the State Fair.
Blunt said he called the staff of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg a month ago to express his opposition to the proposed mosque. Blunt said he wasn't sure if there was anything Congress could do to block the project, but he said it may be appropriate for the federal government to intervene.
"The federal government has a role at Wilson's Creek National Park," a Civil War battlefield near Blunt's hometown of Springfield, he said. "They have a role at lots of locations that are much less alive and hurtful in the hearts and minds of Americans than the site of 9-11."
Earlier this week, Carnahan also changed one of her campaign ads — though not because of its content.
Carnahan has been running a TV ad criticizing Blunt for backing the 2008 bank bailout legislation. The written disclaimer indicating the ad was paid for by Carnahan's campaign was shown at the start of the ad — not at the end as required under Federal Election Commission regulations.
After a Blunt backer complained to the FEC, Carnahan's campaign changed the ad to display the written disclaimer at the end. A Carnahan spokesman said the change was as trivial as moving a comma in a sentence.