An Arkansas man is accusing Democratic senator Mark Pryor’s campaign of misleading him and his family in order to use his tornado-ravaged property for a campaign ad attacking Pryor’s Republican opponent Tom Cotton.
Doug Boydston owns the land where an RV dealership used to stand in the town of Mayflower before it was destroyed by April’s deadly tornados that took 16 lives and resulted in millions of dollars in damage. He calls the move an example of “dirty politics” and has asked that none of the footage of his property be used.
Boydston told National Review Online that he was originally under the impression that Pryor, and others, were going to help clean up and rebuild his property. On June 25, Boydston received a call from Pryor’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, about setting up an event to bring attention to the need to aid in the clean-up efforts. Weaver noted that the property remained noticeably more devastated than the surrounding area.
At first, Boydston and his wife were “very appreciative” to have Pryor come and help out, and they took to Facebook to tells friends and neighbors that the senator would be stopping by the next day. Their ten-year-old son, who listened to the call with Weaver on their truck’s Bluetooth-speaker-phone system, asked if that meant he was going to be able to meet a U.S. senator. “That’s right — you’re going to,” Boydston replied.
The next day, Boydston got a call from his wife, who told him that the Pryor camp was already on the property, but that there was no sign of the senator. She also reported to him that Mayflower mayor Randy Holland was in front of a camera, reciting some lines.
When he got to his property, Boydston approached Weaver to ask what was going on, saying that it didn’t appear to be what had previously been discussed. Weaver said that Boydston must have misunderstood what the campaign had originally asked.
“I didn’t misunderstand you,” Boydston responded. “You just lied about what you said you were going to do.”
After some back and forth, Boydston told Weaver, Holland, and the rest of the crew to get off of his property and not to use any footage obtained on his property.
“The only dadgum reason they wanted to use my lot was because mine looked the worst,” he says. “It looked like a good prop, I guess.”
It was apparent that Pryor’s campaign was shooting a new ad to hit Republican challenger Tom Cotton. Pryor claimed that Cotton didn’t do enough to help residents after the devastation, but Cotton’s campaign notes that he voted to support disaster relief and fully fund FEMA. Pryor’s campaign pointed to Cotton’s vote against last year’s Murray-Ryan budget, which included more funding for FEMA.
Holland, for his part, said he was merely stating a fact when he said in the ad that Cotton never showed up in Mayflower after the tornados. Cotton’s camp notes that Mayflower is not in his district, and he has visited the city since.
Boydston isn’t one for politics — he says he wasn’t particularly inclined to support either candidate — but he feels that he was taken advantage of and misled. In fact, after announcing what he thought would be a clean-up effort led by Pryor, “it was kind of embarrassing” to have some friends show up on the property that day to find out the senator wasn’t present.
Politicizing a tragedy that left people dead also didn’t sit well with Boydston, no matter who it was that wanted to use his property. “It’s not that it’s Pryor — if it had been [Cotton’s campaign] that wanted to come on to my lot to do a commercial, I would have run you off just the same,” he says.
Pryor’s campaign has said that it will not use any footage from Boydston’s property and will edit it out in the online video it had already released.
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online