A GOP super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a digital campaign ad about “Chemtrail Kelli” that could leave Arizona voters with a false impression about Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s 2018 primary opponent.
The ad, sponsored by the Senate Leadership Fund, says Dr. Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator, “wasted your tax dollars for a town hall on ‘chemtrail’ conspiracy theories.” It also uses audio of Ward saying “of course” she would hold another hearing about chemtrails, and shows video of Ward saying she would be “open” to sponsoring legislation on the issue, too. “Chemtrail Kelli’s got her head in the clouds with crazy ideas,” the ad’s narrator says.
But Ward has said before that she doesn’t believe in the debunked theory that the cloud-like trails of condensed water vapor made by airplanes are actually chemicals being used by the government or others to change weather patterns and for other nefarious purposes. Ward said she only held the hearing to address constituent concerns.
The Senate Leadership Fund released the video attacking Ward on Aug. 22. The super PAC spent $10,000 to “target key audiences in Arizona and Washington, DC” over three days. Ward lost to Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican primary and is now challenging Flake — Arizona’s other Republican senator — in 2018.
The ad correctly says that Ward accused McCain of being “directly responsible for the rise” of the Islamic State terrorist organization. And Ward, as the ad claims, also said that McCain, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in July, “should step away as quickly as possible,” and that she “should be … at the top of the list” of candidates to fill his Senate seat.
But it’s the ad’s claims about chemtrails — which Ward has said she doesn’t believe in — that could mislead viewers.
“One year ago, Arizona Republicans rejected ‘Chemtrail Kelli Ward,'” the ad’s narrator says. “Remember why? Ward wasted your tax dollars for a town hall on chemtrail conspiracy theories.”
Ward did hold an informational meeting about the issue on June 25, 2014. In a Facebook post that month, Ward wrote: “I will be hosting ADEQ in Kingman at the BOS auditorium on June 25 at 5PM to discuss how the Department works to assure safe air and water and to address community concerns about chemtrails.”
Two representatives from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality were present to answer the questions of concerned constituents who attended the hearing.
The Arizona Republic, which covered the event, wrote: “Although Ward billed Wednesday’s meeting in Kingman as an exchange about environmental quality in her legislative district, the audience was focused on so-called ‘chemtrails’ and their effect on plant and human life.”
Sherri Zendri, the ADEQ administrative counsel, made clear that she was not at the meeting to answer any science-related questions about chemtrails.
“I am not here to debate the science of aircraft engine emissions,” Zendri said. “I am not a scientist. I am an ADEQ environmental policy specialist. I can talk to you about jurisdiction. I can talk to you about some of the processes in our programs, how things get done. I am not a scientist. So, if you are here to hear some information about the science, the validity of aircraft engine emissions, I apologize. You will probably be disappointed. That’s not what I’m here for.”
Zendri said that Arizona, particularly the Department of Environmental Quality, has no jurisdiction over aircraft engine emissions.
Later, when a resident raised the possibility of Ward introducing legislation about chemtrails, Ward did say that she would be “open” to it. That’s the part of her answer that is featured in the ad.
But in her full response, Ward indicated that there would be problems introducing such a bill.
“I don’t know. I’ll just say I don’t know,” Ward started. “If there were a way, I mean, I’m open. I introduce legislation for constituents all the time. It’s not my legislation. A lot of times I’m getting things from people. So, if it’s something that can be done in Arizona statute, I’m always willing to entertain that. With this particular issue, I think it is going to be difficult because unless you get away from the chemtrail issue that you all are so passionate about, talking about our environmental quality I think can go farther in terms of making sure that there aren’t any public health issues that are out there with our water, our soil, or our air.”
And earlier, Ward told the audience that there was likely little she could do. “I’m not sure there’s anything that Arizona can do, but it’s good to get the information out,” she said.
More important, Ward has said several times before that she doesn’t believe in chemtrails.
“I don’t believe in the chemtrail theory,” she told Politico in an April 2015 interview. And in a tweet later that month, she wrote: “I’ve never believed it — many in my district do.”
That was after Ward told the Arizona Republic in March that “I don’t really have any opinions about ‘chemtrails’ one way or the other.” She said, “I think that environmental quality, though is very important.
Then, as the ad points out, Ward, during a 2016 radio interview, said: “Of course I would do it again,” when talking about the town hall she held about chemtrails. She said that she’d do so because that is what elected officials do.
“People say, well, would you do it again?” she said. “Of course I would do it again because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re elected. You’re supposed to listen to the people and you’re supposed to get them the information they need to feel confident that they live in a safe environment.”
But Ward’s willingness to hold another town hall on the issue doesn’t mean that she believes in the theory. That may not have been clear to viewers of the ad.