Democrats blasted GOP Rep. Dave Brat (Va.) over comments he made to a group of recovering drug addicts this week at the Chesterfield County Jail in Virginia.
What did he say?
“You think you’re having a hard time — I got $5 million worth of negative ads going at me,” Brat reportedly told the inmates Wednesday. “How do you think I’m feeling? Nothing’s easy. For anybody. You think I’m a congressman. ‘Oh, life’s easy. This guys’s off having steaks.' Baloney — I got a daughter, she’s got to deal with that crap on TV every day. It’s tough.”
Brat then added: “You got it harder — I’m not dismissing that.”
Who criticized him?
Brat’s challenger, Democrat Abigail Spanberger, criticized his comments, saying he trivialized the struggles of inmates by making the issue about himself.
“These comments are disturbing and damaging in the way that they belittle and trivialize addiction and the challenges facing those in recovery,” Spanberger told the Washington Post. “However, time and time again, Congressman Brat has demonstrated he is a politician who is more concerned with his own re-election than the struggles and well-being of people in our communities, and sadly, his comments aren’t surprising.
“The truth is that Congressman Brat has also taken massive campaign contributions from pharmaceutical companies, voted to give them a billion-dollar tax break, and voted to limit access to addiction services,” she continued.
Alexandria Goldstein, a 23-year-old inmate who spoke at the meeting, said she believes Brat meant well.
“I think [Brat] had good intentions,” Goldstein said. “But the struggles I've had to deal with throughout my life don't compare to slander or to what people may say about me to the public."
“I don't think it should be used against him by any means because at the end of the day he came here to find a solution,” Goldstein continued. “He came here to hear us and find out what he can do in his position to help us.”
Brat’s jailhouse comments were first reported by WCVE-FM.
He met with about 100 inmates at the jail Wednesday to hear about their challenges in working toward recovery and life after incarceration.
How did Brat respond?
“As a Christian, we love the least of these — we visit those in prison,” Brat stated in a release published by the Post. “As a member of Congress, one of the most moving experiences I have in this job is talking with recovering men and women fighting to rebuilding their lives.”
Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard, who accompanied Brat on his jail visit, said he was frustrated about how it was portrayed.
"A sitting Congressman, who was trying to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction by learning more about it directly from those dealing with the disease, is now being portrayed in such a negative and distorted way," Leonard wrote on Facebook. "I am personally displeased that an issue that I have worked so hard to prevent from being politicized has now ended up being nothing more than just a political football."