In late February, Republican Rep. Ted Budd described Russian President Vladimir Putin as “erratic,” a “thug” and “intelligent.” He also said Putin has “strategic reasons” for wanting to “protect” his country’s borders, but called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “evil” and pledged support for Ukrainians.
But a new TV ad from Republican Pat McCrory cherry-picks from Budd’s remarks to claim the congressman “excuses Putin” for Russia’s deadly attack on Ukraine.
McCrory’s campaign said the 30-second ad, announced on March 9, is the first statewide TV spot the former North Carolina governor has released in his bid to become the Republican nominee for the state’s U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
McCrory and Budd are two of the 14 candidates competing in the GOP primary election scheduled to be held May 17.
Statements About Putin
In the ad, McCrory says, “While Ukrainians bled and died … Congressman Budd excused their killer.” In between those remarks, two different clips are shown of Budd calling Putin a “very intelligent actor,” and saying “there are strategic reasons why” the Russian president “would want to protect his southern and western flank.”
However, the ad omits Budd’s other, less-than-flattering descriptions of Putin, as well as Budd’s stated support for Ukraine and his criticism of the Russian-provoked conflict.
In a Feb. 28 interview with a CBS affiliate in Raleigh, Budd, who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was asked if he agreed with Trump calling Putin “pretty smart” as the invasion was beginning. In response, Budd said:
Budd, Feb. 28: I would say Putin is evil, but that doesn’t mean he’s not smart. He’s a very intelligent actor, although I would say he’s been quite erratic in this approach to the Ukraine. … It was very predictable what he would do, but, at the same time, Putin is evil. He’s an international thug. But he is intelligent, so we have to treat him as such.
Two days earlier, in a Feb. 26 Fox News interview, Budd discussed Putin’s motive for the invasion, which Budd said was to “reverse history” and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, of which Russia and Ukraine were part.
Budd, Feb. 26: He’s essentially trying to rebuild the glory of Russia. There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern and western flank — because of the flatlands of Russia. We understand that. But still, this is evil. This is a sovereign nation in the Ukraine, and we stand with the Ukrainian people.
Budd’s fuller remarks show he was more critical of Putin and Putin’s actions than the ad claims.
Sanctions on Russia
The ad also says, “Budd’s votes have been friendly toward Russia,” and “he voted against sanctions on Russia.”
The source cited was a February News & Observer article, which did say that about Budd — but in reference to votes in years past.
The paper reported:
News & Observer, Feb. 25: In the past, Budd’s votes in Congress have been friendly toward Russia. He has voted against Russian energy sanctions and a bill that called on the G7 to ban Russia from its summits until it respects the territorial lines of Ukraine. He also voted against calling for the U.S. Treasury to turn over documents related to Trump’s financial ties to Russia and an investigation into Russia’s potential interference in the 2016 election.
More recently, Budd has supported bipartisan efforts to hold Russia accountable for its invasion of Ukraine.
On March 9, Budd was one of 414 members of the House of Representatives who voted to suspend U.S. energy imports from Russia, which relies on its energy exports for much of its revenue. A day before the vote, President Joe Biden issued an executive order blocking new U.S. purchases of Russian oil, liquefied natural gas and coal. It allows for a “45-day wind-down period” for orders already under contract, a senior administration official has said.
Almost two weeks before that, on Feb. 24, Budd also called for Russia to be cut off from the global, high-security financial messaging system known as SWIFT. Two days later, the U.S., Canada and several European allies announced that actions had been taken to remove selected Russian banks from the SWIFT system.
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