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A new campaign ad by U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory accuses U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, his opponent in the GOP primary, of excusing Russia's actions in Ukraine. (Screenshot) A new campaign ad by U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory accuses U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, his opponent in the GOP primary, of excusing Russia's actions in Ukraine. (Screenshot)

A new campaign ad by U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory accuses U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, his opponent in the GOP primary, of excusing Russia's actions in Ukraine. (Screenshot)

Paul Specht
By Paul Specht March 15, 2022

McCrory misrepresents Budd comments on Russia

A recent television ad for U.S. Senate candidate Pat McCrory suggested that one of his Republican opponents is sympathetic to Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.

McCrory, the former governor of North Carolina, is one of several candidates hoping to replace retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr later this year. His latest TV ad attacked U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, another Senate candidate, for his recent comments on Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The ad alternated between video clips from Budd’s recent television interviews and McCrory’s commentary. Here’s the transcript:

McCrory: "While Ukrainians bled and died …"

Budd: "He’s a very intelligent actor."

McCrory: "Congressman Budd excused their killer."

Budd: "There are strategic reasons he’d want to protect his southern, western flank. We understand that."

McCrory: "Budd’s votes have been friendly toward Russia. He voted against sanctions on Russia. These are serious times and we need serious senators. I’m Pat McCrory. I don’t compliment our enemies. I stand for truth and freedom. I approved this message. Make your stand with me."

The ad cited its sources for each of the Budd clips as well as McCrory’s claim that Budd’s votes have been "friendly towards Russia." 

When we asked the McCrory campaign why it accused Budd of excusing Putin’s actions, McCrory spokesperson Jordan Shaw pointed to Budd’s comments on Fox that Putin has "strategic reasons for protecting" his flank and "we understand that."  

"Wouldn’t you describe that comment as excusing the invasion?" Shaw said.

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PolitiFact examined the comments and McCrory’s sources and found that McCrory cherry picked Budd’s comments and overlooked the numerous times Budd condemned Putin for his actions in Ukraine.

The video clips

To judge whether Budd is excusing Putin’s actions in Ukraine, let’s first look at the examples offered in McCrory’s ad.

Budd said Putin is "a very intelligent actor." This is from an interview with WNCN-TV. A reporter asked Budd if he agreed with comments by former President Donald Trump, who called Putin "pretty smart." Budd called Putin intelligent. But the ad leaves out parts of the interview where Budd accused Putin of being erratic and "evil":

"Well, you have to look at it in two ways. One is good and bad. I would say Putin is evil. But that doesn’t mean he’s not smart. He’s a very intelligent actor, although I’d say he’s been quite erratic in his approach to the Ukraine. It was very predictable what he would do. At the same time, Putin is evil. He’s an international thug. But he is intelligent and so we have to treat him as such."

Budd said "there are strategic reasons [Putin would] want to protect his southern, Western flank." This is from Budd’s Feb. 26 appearance on Fox News. In this interview, Budd attempted to explain Putin’s motives for invading Ukraine. Again, he described Putin’s actions as "evil" and said he supported Ukraine:

"Putin is trying to reverse history and undo what happened in 1991. We should have known this all along. At his State of the Union in 2005, he essentially said that [Ukraine] was — he considered it to be part of a larger Russia, but he's essentially trying to build the glory of Russia. There are strategic reasons why he would want to protect his southern, Western flank because of the flatlands of Russia. We understand that. But still, I mean, this is evil. This is a sovereign nation in the Ukraine, and we stand with the Ukraine people now."

McCrory’s ad also mentioned a News & Observer story that described some of Budd’s votes as "friendly towards Russia." But the same story mentioned Budd’s condemnation of Putin on Feb. 24, when he said, "We need to take stronger action against Vladimir Putin’s outrageous invasion of Ukraine, starting with cutting off Russia’s access to the global financial system."

Our ruling

McCrory said: "While Ukrainians bled and died, Congressman Budd excused their killer."

McCrory’s ad implied that Budd was forgiving Putin’s actions or attempting to absolve him from blame. However, a review of the full context of Budd’s interviews shows that he also attempted to explain Putin’s motivations, but didn’t endorse or forgive them. Budd said Putin has "strategic reasons" for his actions, but he also called Putin "evil," "erratic" and a "thug." He said he supports Ukraine and he advocated stronger action against Putin.

McCrory’s claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

Video ad " Stand with me" by Pat McCrory for US Senate.

Email exchange with Jordan Shaw, spokesman for Pat McCrory for US Senate.

Story and video by WNCN-TV, "NC Rep. Ted Budd officially enters US Senate race," posted Feb. 28, 2022.
Video by Fox News, "Afghanistan withdrawal put US in a position of weakness, Putin watched: Rep. Ted Budd," posted Feb. 26, 2022.

Story by the News & Observer, "As bombs fall on Ukraine, NC’s Budd listens to Trump call Putin ‘very smart,’" posted March 9, 2022.

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