Phone Messages Attacking Bush Target Michigan Voters

By Ben Anderson | July 7, 2008 | 8:25 PM EDT

( - The George W Bush presidential campaign is crying foul over recorded telephone messages placed to Michigan residents which compare his spending record in Texas to that of "liberal Bill Clinton and the Democrats" in Washington and another that accuses Bush of engaging in a "negative smear campaign." And residents there are complaining of a recorded phone message accusing Bush of being anti-Catholic.

"Don't be fooled by George Bush's negative smear campaign. He's attacking John McCain because John wants to rid Washington of the special interests and return government back to us. Let's show them Michigan is different," one of the recorded messages tells residents. The message begins saying the call is a "conservative voter alert."

Another call tells residents, "The media reports that the Bush campaign has engaged in a win at all costs campaign in South Carolina and here in Michigan George Bush is already running a negative campaign on television. So get ready for a fresh round of negative attacks. Don't be fooled by George Bush's negative smear campaign."

The two messages, copies of which were obtained by, make no disclosure as to who paid for the calls, but Bush campaign spokesman Ari Fleischer responded by pointing directly to the McCain campaign.

"Chairman McCain is engaging in a negative campaign and now he's making attack phone calls to voters in Michigan," Fleischer said. "It's very disappointing."

McCain campaign officials have not responded to four requests for comment.

In addition to the "conservative voter alert" touted by the recordings made public Monday, two residents in Michigan told they were targeted by calls painting Bush as anti-Catholic.

Birmingham, Michigan resident Adrienne Karns told she received a call of a recording of a man saying the call was a "Catholic voters alert" asking her to vote for McCain since he was a "friend of Catholics and that Catholics should vote for him."

Karns said the recording accused Bush and Bob Jones University (where Bush recently spoke) of being "anti-Catholic." The recording also said that McCain was a "friend of Catholics and that Catholics should vote for John McCain."

The message lasted about two minutes, Karns said, based on the information provided by her caller identification box which displayed "out of area" instead of a phone number, but did display the time and duration of the call.

"I was irritated for two reasons," Karns said. "Because John McCain said he would take the high road and was not going to do this and I was also irritated that I was being pigeon-holed as a Catholic voter who would fall for this."

"My first reaction was, 'Where did they get my name or our household name as a Catholic voter?'"

Karns said she doesn't believe the McCain campaign is responsible for the calls. "I think it's an outside group. However, like (President Harry) Truman said, 'The buck stops here.' I was really surprised.

One Detroit-area senior citizen, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told she received a phone call Monday afternoon during which a male recording "said that Bush accused the Pope of being the anti-Christ when Bush was a speaker at Bob Jones University."

A transcript of that speech reveals no reference to the Pope nor to the anti-Christ.

During the same phone call there were references to several high profile politicians who have defected the Bush campaign, throwing their support behind McCain.

"At that point, I was so aggravated that I just hung-up on him," the woman said, admitting that she would vote for Bush because "he's straight forward. He doesn't mince words. His platform is more in keeping with the way I feel." Bush, she said, "is on the side of senior citizens when it comes to Social Security."