Josh Hawley's 'Pre-Existing Conditions' Ad Is Officially a National Joke

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Republicans may have begged Josh Hawley to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Claire McCaskill — but the more this campaign drags on, the more you have to question what the insiders were thinking.

It's not just Hawley's penchant for working out and buying wine (and traipsing around the country) in the middle of the workdday. It's also downright preventable errors like trying to force McCaskill to debate on a freakin' utility trailer — and, now, trying to force a discussion about his record on pre-existing conditions, with claims that have drawn universal guffaws from anyone paying attention to the issue.

A little background, for those who aren't tuned in to the snickers coming out of Washington, D.C.:

Clearly attempting to shore up his bonafides with top-dollar GOP donors, Hawley used his office as the state attorney general to sign Missouri on to a lawsuit taking on the Affordable Care Act. If the suit is successful, it would repeal all of Obamacare, including the provision that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

McCaskill has been hammering Hawley for the lawsuit lately — and she apparently pushed hard enough that Hawley's campaign decided to respond. But bizarrely, rather than defend the free-market principles that surely drive Hawley's opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the AG cut an utterly disingenuous ad using his young son's medical condition and soft lighting to claim he's on the side of the angels.

"I support forcing insurance companies to cover all pre-existing conditions," he intones in the ad, released Tuesday. "And Claire McCaskill knows it. You deserve a Senator who's driven to fix this mess, not just one determined to hang onto her office."


It's not just that Hawley's lawsuit would have just the opposite impact — gutting the Affordable Care Act and, with it, its rules for insurers. It's also that beyond filing the lawsuit, the AG has done nothing to fight on the issue. He hasn't worked to rally state legislators into a local fix. Nor is he using his bully pulpit to focus voters on the importance of the issue; given a microphone, he's instead focused on letting churches keep their tax-free status even while wading into politics and rolling back the sexual revolution.

His rank insincerity on the health-care issue drew immediate pushback on Twitter.

And this morning, it earned an entire column in the New York Times, with Paul Krugman charging Hawley with "a determination to deceive voters as much as possible."

"You almost have to admire the sheer brazenness of the dishonesty here," Krugman writes.

The Washington Post was equally impressed. "Republicans have never lacked for chutzpah, which is what it takes to file a lawsuit intended to take away protections for preexisting conditions, and then run a soft-focus ad about how committed you are to protecting those with preexisting conditions," wrote Paul Waldman. Waldman titled his column "A TV ad that crystallizes the biggest GOP lie about health care."

The maxim in politics has long held that earned media — meaning media coverage, not paid advertisements — is the best kind of media to get. Why? You don't have to pay for it.

And to some extent, by that measure, Hawley's ad is a success. By releasing his commercial online, Josh Hawley has single-handedly earned reams of press from the nation's largest newspapers.

Somehow, however, we don't think this is what the political powers that be had in mind when they talked about earned media — nor is what they had in mind when they recruited Hawley. Like it or not, this week, their golden boy has become the poster child for health-care mendacity.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at [email protected]

About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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