Under the Dome

Tillis calls staffer resignations ‘firings’ in new ad

As Democrats level more attacks, Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis is taking to television to defend a sex scandal in his office, but critics are saying he is “rewriting history.”

Tillis’ campaign debuted a new TV ad Thursday that pushed back against a Democratic super PACs commercial that highlighted the severance package he gave two staffers who departed after admitting in romantic relationships with lobbyists. (See ad below.)

The Tillis campaign’s quick response, coming a day after the Senate Majority PAC launched its ad, speaks to the severity of the charges and the potential political harm to the Republican frontrunner’s campaign. The ad will run in place of another positive ad promoting Tillis’ background and accomplishments and run through the primary.

In the new 30-second spot, the Tillis claims he “fired the staffers” – a point contradicted by his own language at the time of the controversy in 2012, when Tillis allowed them to resign and receive the pay outs. He also blames Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada for the attacks. The super PAC is run by former Reid aides.

“Seen those ads attacking Thom Tillis?” a narrator says in Tillis’ ad. “They’re false. Tillis fired the staffers. Know who’s paying for the sleazy ads? It’s Harry Reid.

“Reid’s trying to fool Republican voters, meddling in our primary to get a weak opponent for Kay Hagan.”

The departure of the two staffers – one was his chief of staff with whom Tillis shared a Raleigh apartment and the other a policy adviser – were announced as resignation. In a statement at the time, Tillis said Chief of Staff Charles Thomas “verbally offered his resignation … I have accepted his resignation.” The two staffers were given a total severance of $19,333.

“Speaker Tillis is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts,” said Ben Ray, a spokesman for Forward North Carolina, a group allied with Hagan.

Asked about the discrepancy, spokesman Jordan Shaw said Thursday that Tillis “initiated the action of asking for their resignation.”