Senator Scott Brown issued an apology Wednesday night for telling reporters earlier in the day that his opponent, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, had paid actors to appear as victims of asbestos-related illnesses in television advertisements defending her role in a lawsuit that has become a key issue in the campaign.
Three of the people in the ads said in statements provided by the Warren campaign that they were neither paid nor actors. They said they had lost loved ones to asbestos-related illness and that Brown’s accusations were offensive.
John F. English said in a statement that he moved in with his father during the final stages of his life, before he died of mesothelioma. “Let Scott Brown tell me to my face that I am nothing but a ‘paid actor,’ and I’ll set him straight on what it was like to watch my father suffocate to death,” English said.
Brown issued his apology after the story was reported in the Taunton Gazette Wednesday evening. “It was wrong for me to have jumped to those conclusions and I apologize to those I offended,” Brown said in a statement issued Wednesday night.
According to the Gazette, Brown made his comments while visiting the Taunton Fire Department’s central station Wednesday morning, when a firefighter asked Brown why victims’ family members were appearing in her commercials.
“A lot of them are paid,” Brown said. “We hear that maybe they pay actors. Listen, you can get surrogates and go out and say your thing. We have regular people in our commercials. No one is paid. They are regular folks that reach out to us and say she is full of it.”
Warren called it a “new low” in a post on Twitter Wednesday night. Her campaign also issued a statement on her behalf. “For Scott Brown to attack family members of people who died from asbestos poisoning is shameful,” she said.
Warren, a Harvard bankruptcy specialist, was paid $212,000 by Travelers from 2008 to 2010, helping Travelers Insurance in a Supreme Court case. The company was trying to win immunity from asbestos-related cases in exchange for establishing a $500 million settlement fund, to be divided among current and future claimants.
Travelers won the immunity. But after a series of legal twists, the company avoided paying the $500 million settlement. Warren was no longer involved then, and she has said that she did not anticipate the result. Brown argues she should have foreseen that potential result and has claimed in commercials that she was fighting against the victims.
Though some victims opposed the settlement, most were on Warren’s side when she worked on the Supreme Court case. In response to Brown’s ads, Warren has run an ad titled “ashamed” that includes family members of people who died of asbestos-related illnesses, criticizing Brown for making it a campaign issue.
Noah Bierman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.