Republican National Committee Didn’t Fully Honor 9/11 Campaign Moratorium

RNC chair Ronna Romney McDaniel waves to the crowd during a Make America Great Again rally at Total Sports Park in Washington Township, Mich., on Saturday, April 28, 2018. (Junfu Han/Detroit Free Press/TNS)
Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service

On the anniversary of 9/11, politicians usually refrain from any political activity. That didn’t quite happen this year.

The Republican National Committee and its chairwoman took a few swipes at Democrats even after being asked by the organizers of the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance to refrain from all public partisan activity on the day, breaking a norm that has been largely upheld by both parties since the terrorist attacks 17 years ago this week.

That includes RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, who tweeted the following:

That came just hours after McDaniel criticized MSNBC host Joe Scarborough for politicizing the day:

RNC Communications Director Ryan Mahoney had pledged to the 9/11 organization that the RNC would stop most of its political activities ahead of time — but had stopped short of promising a full cessation of political activity.

“For your awareness, the RNC will suspend the majority of our voter contact activities on 9/11 to honor the victims and those who fought to defend us since that tragic day.  Staff are highly encouraged to engage in community service efforts instead,” Mahoney said in an email to David Paine, the founder and chairman of the 9/11 Day organization, that Paine shared with TPM.

That response drew an emailed thanks from Paine, But after the fact, he wasn’t happy the RNC hadn’t fully abided by his group’s request.

We’re very disappointed that was the decision they made,” he said. To engage in campaign activities on 9/11 is completely inappropriate and unacceptable, any form of it.”

Paine said he wanted to give the RNC “a bit of latitude” because this was the first time the organization had specifically asked the party committees to join the effort. But he said that this was the first time any candidate or committee had ever responded to the organization’s request by promising to cease some but not all of its activities — and said every presidential candidate of both parties since the 9/11 attacks had honored the day by avoiding campaign activities.

You would think they would understand even 17 years later that we all stood up there after the attacks and we made a promise to the 911 families we’d never forget. Any time any party refuses to suspend their campaign activity for 24 hours to us is a violation of that promise, it’s a broken promise,” he said, worrying “that if one side doesn’t abide by it it’ll become increasingly hard” to keep the day free from overt politics.

By contrast, the Democratic National Committee remained fully radio silent on politics for the day on its social media accounts.

“The DNC was proud to commit to honoring 9/11 victims, their families, and the ordinary heroes whose fearless action saved countless lives that day.  This is the least we can do.  We’re thankful to 9/11 Day for their efforts and support,” said DNC spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

McDaniel’s tweet wasn’t the only political attack the RNC levied on 9/11 this year. Though the organization’s main social media accounts did avoid overtly political messages on the day, its research department sent out a trio of political tweets, two going after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and a third knocking Democrats’ calls for single-payer healthcare.

Those could be attributed to a lower-level staffer not getting the memo, but it’s hard to explain away McDaniel’s tweet.

Mahoney said the RNC had lived up to its promised commitments to cease most of its political activity for the day, including hitting a pause on fundraising and having its 600 staff suspend voter contact efforts.

“The RNC did suspend the vast majority of our campaign activities on 9/11 to honor of the victims and those who sacrificed for all Americans in the 17 years since,” he told TPM.

And to be fair, while the DNC avoided public politics for the day the RNC wasn’t the only candidate or committee who kept up campaign activities on the 9/11 anniversary.

That includes Pelosi:

Other candidates in both parties also kept campaigning through the day, a shift from how most handled the anniversary in previous years.

President Trump himself appeared to wake up on the 9/11 anniversary with other things on his mind. Just minutes after tweeting out “Never forget,” Trump followed up with tweets attacking the Russian investigation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

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