The Republican Party’s chief strategist on Tuesday morning said promoting a web video about Tim Kaine’s record on the death penalty by comparing it to a “Willie Horton”-style attack was a mistake.
But Sean Spicer was unapologetic about calling Kaine out for defending accused rapists and murderers, despite the accused’s constitutional right to representation.
“First of all, I don’t think it compares to Willie Horton,” Spicer said in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, pointing out that three of four cases in the video concern white prisoners. The 1988 ad about William Horton, a convicted murderer who raped a woman while on furlough, was sharply criticized at the time for playing on racist stereotypes.
“This just goes back to Tim Kaine’s record,” Spicer continued. “There are rapists and murderers he defended to keep out of prison that have done horrible things.”
But what about the fundamental role defense lawyers play in America, Cuomo asked.
“That’s a constitutional right,” Spicer admitted, before separating Kaine from that tradition.
“There’s a difference between — he went out and advocated and talked about and tried to get them off the hook for certain things,” he argued.
“It’s not just about the death penalty,” Spicer added. “It’s about making sure they served the least amount of time possible. That’s a big difference. You know, it’s amazing how quick everyone runs to Tim Kaine’s defense.”
Two of the four prisoners featured in the RNC web video were ultimately executed. Another, Percy Lavar Walton, had an IQ of 66 and reportedly was schizophrenic and believed he was Jesus, as The Intercept pointed out Monday.
Walton’s death sentence was commuted by Kaine when he was governor of Virginia. At the time, he said “one cannot reasonably conclude that Walton is fully aware of the punishment he is about to suffer and why he is to suffer it.” Walton is now serving life without parole.