The Republican candidate who won the 3rd congressional district pre-primary on Saturday raised some eyebrows when he referred to Democratic incumbent Ben Ray Luján as a socialist. In an interview with reporters after the event posted by New Mexico Capitol Report, Rick Newton doubled-down on the attacks — which after a very little bit of digging are proven false.
Newton said that “if you look at the Socialist Party of America, he is one of the 70 House members who is a member or was at the time that was published.”
Later in the interview, Newton said, “I wouldn’t have said he was socialist if he wasn’t documented as a socialist as a member. According to them, he’s a member.”
After similar claims against New Jersey Democrats, Politifact looked into it and ruled it “Pants on Fire” false.
There is not one member of Congress who is a formal member of the DSA, [former national director of the Democratic Socialists of America Frank] Llewellyn said. In order to join, a person must fill out a form and pay dues. Even Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, is not a formal member of the DSA, Llewellyn said.
The last member of Congress who was an actual card-carrying member, he said, was California Democratic Rep. Ron Dellums, who served 28 years in the House until leaving in 1998.
Ben Ray Luján is registered with the Democratic Party in New Mexico. People are not allowed to register with multiple political parties.
So where did Newton get this information?
What Newton appears to be referencing is the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as the Politifact ruling cites.. Far-right websites such as Free Republic and The Gateway Pundit have passed along this false information, apparently without looking into any of the details.
Where these sites, and consequently Newman, got this was from a PDF on Scribd posted by a birther group. The “birther” (a phrase for people who believe in the conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States) group merely posted the list of members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 2009 and said it proved they were part of the “DSA.”
Gateway Pundit linked to a now defunct site, American Socialist Voter, to “prove” these members were socialists. This site, which said it is not a political party, got the information from Tysk News, itself a far-right website that routinely says Democrats are socialists or communists.
According to Milan Simonich, Luján’s office told him in a phone interview that the information was false. But you hardly need a spokesman to tell you that — you just have to look at the full facts, something that Newton clearly failed to do.
Newton also managed to fit some other falsehoods into his short interview.
He said that Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics is now “about 44 percent” after being “about 85 percent” in 2008. A recent poll of 1,200 likely Latino voters by Fox News Latino showed Obama is still popular among Latinos:
The national poll of likely Latino voters indicated that 73 percent of them approved of Obama’s performance in office, with over half those questioned looking favorably upon his handling of the healthcare debate and the economy, at 66 percent and 58 percent respectively.
In addition, the poll showed that even Latinos who voted for John McCain in 2008 were split on whether to support Obama or his Republican opponents in November.
Newton appears to be referencing out-of-date information. A Gallup poll showed Obama’s job approval rating among Hispanics to dip to 44 percent three times last year — once in an August 15-21 poll, in the August 22-28 poll and the October 24-30 poll. These drops were heavily promoted in the conservative media.
The latest Gallup poll shows Obama with a 57 percent approval rating among Hispanics.
Newton would perhaps benefit from researching his claims beyond links on conservative blogs and news sources.