A new ad from the antigay National Organization for Marriage targets Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor for not being strongly enough opposed to marriage equality — despite the fact that Pryor is one of only two Democrats in the U.S. Senate who haven't publicly come out in favor of the freedom to marry.
Pryor, a two-term senator from Arkansas, is in a close race for reelection against Republican challenger Tom Cotton, who RealClearPolitics puts seven points ahead of the incumbent Democrat as of Wednesday. Arkansas tends to lean conservative, according to a 2013 poll by the University of Arkansas.
"Can we trust Mark Pryor to defend traditional marriage?" asks a voice-over in the 30-second spot.
The spot then cuts to clips of Pryor apparently avoiding a direct response to a reporter's question on marriage equality, which appears to be from a May interaction where Pryor claimed his position on the issue was "well-documented," noting that he voted in favor of the state's constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage. A state judge had just ruled that the amendment violated both the U.S. and Arkansas constitutions, which briefly brought marriage equality to the state before the Arkansas Supreme Court stepped in to put the ruling on hold pending appeal.
During NOM's excerpt of this interaction, text on the ad claims that "publicly Pryor opposes gay marriage … while privately he supports it." As evidence for that claim, NOM's ad includes video that purports to show a "gay leader" recounting how Pryor allegedly told her he isn't against "gay marriage," but that if she ever told anyone he said that, he would find her and kill her. The progressive Arkansas Times, however, reports that this footage actually features an Arkansas college student who was filmed without her knowledge, then saw her comments spliced together by "discredited undercover filmmaker James O'Keefe." The state Democratic Party called the footage a violation of the student's privacy, noting that it was obtained and included in the ad without the young woman's consent.
The ad closes by promising that Republican Tom Cotton "will fight to restore our vote for marriage," an apparent reference to that May court ruling. Cotton opposes marriage equality, according to OnTheIssues.org.
Pryor, for his part, has been noncommittal at best when discussing his views on marriage equality. Last year, a spokesman for his campaign told a local newspaper that Pryor believed homosexuality was a choice and that he opposed marriage equality based on a "moral belief." Then just days later, Pryor said he was "undecided" on the issue.
The only other Democratic Senator who hasn't come out for marriage equality is Louisiana's Mary Landrieu, who said last year she personally supports marriage equality, but that her constituents don't, so she will not vote for equal marriage rights.
Watch NOM's new ad, running on Arkansas television stations as part of a substantial ad buy in that state and North Carolina, below: