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Sen. Peters, rival James call each other out on TV ads they say are lies

Ariana Taylor
The Detroit News

In the midst of what is projected to be the most expensive U.S. Senate race in Michigan history, Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Republican challenger John James called each other out about TV ads they say are lies.

During what may be the closest thing to a debate between the two, Peters and James made separate appearances on WDIV-TV's "Flashpoint" on Sunday morning and  directly responded to their opponent's ads.

Anchor Devin Scillian showed both candidates ads that are running against them. One ad claimed Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, supports deals that would close 44 Michigan hospitals and cut billions in health care funding. 

Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James draws applause from the crowd at President Donald Trump's rally in Freeland on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020.

In response, Peters said the claims were "demonstrably false."

"Mr. James and his friends are just running attack ads against me that independent fact-checkers ... have said they're false. ... They're smears, they're ads that represent why people hate politics," Peters said. 

In another ad, people who appear to be Michigan residents said James, the Farmington Hills Republican, supports a health care plan that discriminates against those with pre-existing conditions. When asked about the ad, James said he turns the TV off. 

"It's pure unadulterated lies and getting surrogates who try to look like the people who you're trying to represent, when many cases they're paid to play on our emotions when those assertions are baseless, fact-less," James said. 

Sen. Gary Peters, right, and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel tour Futuramic Manufacturing in Warren on Friday, October 2, 2020.

Through early October, the two candidates have raised a total of $70 million as they've spent more than $20 million mostly on television ads, while outside political action committees and interest groups have flooded the internet and airwaves with negative commercials.

The candidates have produced more than 20 TV spots combined — including a few that started as early as February — on topics from health care to military service.

When asked directly about his health care plans on Sunday, James said he doesn't want to repeal the part of the current health care law that protects people with pre-existing conditions. James then criticized Peters for his personal health care coverage.

"I believe that creating a system that we make the Affordable Care Act actually affordable by allowing competition to tax toward the regulatory reform, expanding risk pools across state lines, allowing associations so that people can have more choice," James said. "Sen. Peters is on a gold-plated, taxpayer-funded plan that we don't have access to but he gets to benefit."

In response, Peters stood ground on supporting the Affordable Care Act and denied claims that his personal health care plan is exempt from the federal health care law. 

"The Affordable Care Act covers all health plans, so I'm not sure where that's coming from. There is a state exchange which is part of the Affordable Care Act where you can bind the state exchange," Peters said.

"I support the Affordable Care Act and to strengthen the Affordable Care Act. ... The Republicans, Mr. James basically want to throw that all out, which would mean folks in Michigan would be losing critical health care coverage."

Peters' staff told The Detroit News in 2013 that he signed up for a health plan through the federal exchange in 2013.