U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens, a first-term Democrat from Rochester Hills, is the target of a television ad this week that accuses her of failing to provide “calm leadership” amid a national crisis.
The 30-second ad is funded by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC that helps elect Republicans to Congress. The jarring clip consists almost entirely of a speech Stevens gave on the House floor, shouting, jabbing her fingers and declaring “you will see darkness.”
The ad, which ends by calling Stevens “just embarrassing,” is tough to fact check because it provides zero context and much of the congresswoman’s speech is difficult to comprehend.
Stevens flipped the 11th House District, which includes parts of Wayne and Oakland counties, from Republicans in 2018 and seeks re-election against Republican Eric Esshaki, a former nursing home worker.
“This year, America needed calm leadership. Instead, Michigan got Haley Stevens,” the narrator says as the ad shows her wearing pink gloves and shouting on the House floor.
What Stevens says is largely unintelligible, as only words can be made out here and there, such as “not for personal attention,” which the narrator says “but it was.”
Stevens gave the speech on March 27, the day after the nation eclipsed 1,000 deaths from COVID-19 and as the House debated a $2 trillion relief package for workers and businesses.
Media accounts at the time stated each representative was allotted 1 minute to speak, but Stevens “refused to yield” after her time ran out. After another member of Congress yielded her more time, she continued to speak and was ruled out of order.
Stevens later used an image from the session in a fundraising appeal, which prompted an ethics complaint from a conservative watchdog group and promise from her campaign that the issue wouldn’t recur.
Although much of what Stevens said is hard to discern, her congressional office released the speech she rushed to complete. It calls for the nation to “listen to the scientists and doctors” and for Congress to protect schoolchildren, small business owners and medical workers.
The line highlighted in the ad — “you will see darkness” — refers to medical workers, whom Stevens praises for “countless valiant acts.” Stevens said she wore pink gloves on the House floor in tribute to them.
“You will see darkness. You will be pushed. And know, our society needs you and stands by you at this time. Our country loves you,” the full portion of the speech reads.
The Congressional Leadership Fund did not respond to messages from Bridge Michigan seeking comment about the ad, but has aired another ad claiming Stevens is “way out there.” Republicans have claimed she “lacks the temperament” for office, also criticizing her for shouting during a town hall forum on gun violence in October.
Asked for comment by Bridge, Stevens campaign spokesperson Blake McCarren said “throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Rep. Stevens has been a tireless fighter on behalf of frontline workers, small businesses, and working families in Michigan's 11th District.”
No doubt, Stevens broke the norms of Congress. Whether that’s passion or something else is purely subjective.
But the ad lacks context, leaving voters to guess about the nature of the speech or why Stevens might be so animated. Six months after the speech, 200,000 have died of the coronavirus in the United States.