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Councilman Bilbray Comes to Defense of Dad’s TV Spot: Daughter with Cancer

Briana Bilbray’s terminal illness is used in commercial for father’s Congress re-election campaign.

Updated at 3:45 p.m. Nov. 2, 2012

Imperial Beach Councilman Brian Pat Bilbray didn’t stay silent when an online commenter accused his father of exploiting sister Briana with a TV spot noting her “terminal cancer.”

On Wednesday, a Patch user posted a scathing comment on a story about TV spending by Rep. Bilbray and Democratic opponent Scott Peters.

“Bilbray should be ashamed of himself to exploit his daughter's cancer to help him get re-elected,” wrote RATSJ. “He doesn’t deserve anyone’s vote. What a loser!”

Ten hours later, the Republican congressman’s son replied: “Its [sic] not exploitation, it was her idea to do the ad. … She is benefitting from the research that pops championed in the past. UCLA gave up on her and gave her 5 years; now with this new treatment at least she has options!”

The younger Bilbray, now 27 and going by Pat Bilbray, won election to the Imperial Beach City Council in 2010 and is running for re-election.

He hopes to regain a seat on the same body where his father once served as mayor in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.

The commercial featuring 25-year-old skin-cancer victim Briana has drawn media scrutiny as well.

KPBS said Friday that the ad “reveals contradictions in Bilbray’s position on health care.”

“I’m Briana Bilbray and I have terminal cancer,” she says in the ad. “My dad’s work may not save my life but it could save thousands of others.”

But KPBS noted that Rep. Bilbray had set up a skin cancer research fund that derives from a 10 percent tax on tanning salons.

“That tanning salon tax is an element of the Affordable Health Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, which Bilbray has pledged—along with his party—to repeal,” KPBS said. “Carl Luna, a political science professor at Mesa College, said the inconsistencies in Bilbray’s political position get lost in the drama of the ad.”

Later, KPBS updated its story with this statement: “Since the story was written, Bilbray’s campaign said that his legislation creating the cancer research fund seeks to separate the tanning salon tax from the Affordable Health Care Act.”

In its own look at the TV spot, U-T San Diego—which has endorsed Bilbray and featured a series of full-page ads backing the incumbent—quoted a prepared statement by challenger Scott Peters:

“I met Briana; she’s an impressive young woman. My heart goes out to her, Brian and the Bilbray family. I have a 21-year-old daughter, and I can’t begin to imagine how hard this must be for them. Tragically, every single one of us has been affected by cancer. If I’m elected, I will do everything in my power to support cancer research. And I will fight to make Congress work again so we have more resources available to fight this awful, awful disease. I wish Briana all the best.”

The U-T confirmed that Briana Bilbray said the ad was her idea and “a way to contribute as she battles the deadliest form of skin cancer.”

“I haven’t seen the polling. I don’t know what the messaging is,” she told the U-T. “This is really important to everybody and people should know what dad is doing for this community.”

She defended her narration and appearance in the ad.

“It’s different when you’re a cancer patient,” she was quoted as saying. “You really don’t understand until you’re in the position I’m in.”

The U-T also quoted Los Angeles-based Democratic media consultant Roy Behr as saying: “This ad makes me cringe. Even if it turns out to be effective, it’s so exploitive, it’s painful to watch.”

The debate continues on the Patch story, however.

A day after Councilman Bilbray posted his comment on the Patch report, a reader using the name Catwoman wrote: “I agree with RATSJ that Bilbray is going for the pity vote.”

On Friday, supporters of Proposition S, the ballot measure aiming to legalize medical marijuana dispenseries in Imperial Beach, said Councilman Bilbray had endorsed their effort.

Eugene Z. Davidovich November 03, 2012 at 04:58 PM
These people claim to be pro choice or pro freedom. In reality these people such as ibsandyshoes are just closeted racists, haters, and bigots. I applaud Briana for having the courage to stand up! Although I personally do not agree with a lot of her dad's policies, I applaud their whole family for the public service they have dedicated themselves to.
Eugene Z. Davidovich November 03, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Doug, you make great points, and your you seem to be open to an actual debate and discussion of the issues. I applaud you for standing up for your beliefs and not hiding behind a fake name online like a lot of the folks who claim to be against Prop S have done. Thank you for your compassion and understanding of Briana's struggle and for defending her against those unwilling to show their real names.
Sally Pla November 03, 2012 at 05:24 PM
If Brianna truly wants to advocate for cancer research and patient rights, then she should consider supporting the Affordable Care Act, and work to help educate and change her father's damaging positions on this all-important issue. However I suspect that her motives are not so much concern for general public health/cancer research, as concern for her father's political health.
Julia Lombardo November 03, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Very, VERY well said!!!!!! Kudos!
ibsandyshores November 03, 2012 at 06:09 PM
I agree. It took courage to go public and talk about her illness through news interviews and press. But the use of it in a paid ad to win a political seat is sad. Even sadder, the other camapign that is piggybacking on the ad for their own cause. Ugh!
Komfort November 03, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Where might I find Bilbray's statements in favor of all the items you have credited to him?
Mary November 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Sally - I agree wholeheartedly.
RATSJ November 03, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Once again.....it was a political ad to enhance Bilbray's re-election. As others have pointed out, we know where Congressman Bilbray stands on women's issues. I challenge Brian Bilbray to pay for more TV ads so that all of the other people fighting cancer can be seen and heard. What do you say Congressman Bilbray?
RATSJ November 03, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I totally agree David!
Kay Kardian-Porter November 03, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Briana can say what she wants to say..the last i heard we do have freedom of speech. I applaud her for speaking out she is very couragious young lady. If she wants to advocate her illness perhaps its helping someone else who is also suffering whatever reason was behind the ad..she made the choice to speak out. You go Briana!!
RATSJ November 03, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Freedom of campaign money also....let her speak out on her own behalf, not at the expense of a political campaign. That is the whole point!
Things I Learned November 03, 2012 at 07:26 PM
You should not use fake names.
RATSJ November 03, 2012 at 07:28 PM
By the way, the ad in itself was of NO help to cancer victims. All she said was that she had terminal cancer and her dad may not be able to save her life but may be able to save others. How will Brian Bilbray be able to save anyone's life? I thought doctor's had that expertise and Brian Bilbray is no doctor.
looski November 03, 2012 at 08:37 PM
It would be good for voters to allow Brian time with his beautiful daughter Briana by not re-electing him. That way he can spend quality time with her at home.
Summer Hemphill November 03, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Medical marijuana has been legal since the voters approved it through the initiative process in 1996. This measure also set in stone what some have characterized as lax guidelines as to who legitimately needs it for medical reasons. Certainly some people feel that many of those who've become cannabis patients are not all that ill & that the Compassionate Use Act is nothing more than de facto legalization. I'm a cannabis patient & I would agree that there certainly are some people taking advantage of the law,but like it or not they to are legitimate patients according to state law as they have a doctor's recommendation too. Like it or not that's California law & since it was passed by the voters through the initiative process,it can only be modified by another initiative ! With 46% of California voters favoring complete legalization in 2010 there is little enthusiasm for tightening the guidelines for who can become a cannabis patient,certainly not enough to mount a campaign to do so. The Appellate Court has ruled that storefront dispensaries are legal,that local bans are illegal & that present bans are unenforceable. It's too bad that a few callous cretins disparage cannabis patients in their ill-conceived efforts to defy state law in an attempt to force their "values" upon the majority of Imperial Beach residents. Well times have changed,public opinion has evolved,the law is the law & if the obstructionists don't like it then that's just too damn bad. Vote Yes On Measure S !
RATSJ November 03, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Good point Looski. Instead of "reaching across the aisle" like Bilbray has said a million times over and over, it might be beneficial for him to "reach across the room" and hug his daughter in her time of need. That would be a good "pops" thing to do.
Sarah Riccitelli November 04, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Ditto to Looski & RATSJ. Brianna's illness is tragic but she shouldn't commercialize it for political gain. It cheapens the suffering for everyone.
Lynn Marr November 04, 2012 at 09:21 AM
Apparently Brian Bilbray now wants to separate the Tanning Salon Tax from the overall plan for Obamacare? If someone has some other terminal cancer, other than skin cancer, then they shouldn't be allowed the benefits of Obamacare? I do feel its ironic & telling that Congressman Brian Bilbray named his son Brian & his daughter Briana. Probably all politicians have a lot of ego, but the ad is distasteful, & seems hypocritical, even misleading. Christy Guerin, our ex mayor and former councilmember is now Brian Bilbray's district rep. I'm glad she's left elected office, here. Guerin's daughter, Bilbray's daughter and Superior Court Judge Lisa-Guy Schall's (whose husband is a developer) twin daughters were apparently friends & all involved with local soccer leagues, which led to suspected back room conversations & influence maneuvers amongst their parents, probably including using them as sock puppets, trying to sway opinion thru comments on local blogs. With respect to Brian Bilbray's son, in Imperial Beach, I'm in Encinitas. After the redistricting, Bilbray will no longer be our Congressman. But city politics should be, ideally, non-partisan. To me, it's commendable that Councilman Brian Bilbray supports dispensaries available to ALL whose suffering can be alleviated by medical marijuana. My sympathy & best wishes for Briana. Although distasteful, hopefully some positive publicity will come thru this about the dangers of tanning salons, & over exposure to the sun.
Island Girl November 05, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Perhaps this would be a good time to discuss outlawing tanning salons
RATSJ November 05, 2012 at 11:54 PM
I agree. Why don't people get smart and buy the self-tanning cream? That would be less harmful than the sun and tanning salons.
Char November 06, 2012 at 12:38 AM
No he's not. But he's a politician, they are known for using their influence for personal gain. What makes you think he's not making promises to some cancer research fund to help get him more votes, so that they help his daughter. There are thousands more who don't have his influence or money and are suffering.
gerrie jackson November 06, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Ditto to Looski - Brian should have been gone many years ago. And if Pat Bilbray continues to follow in his father's way of thinking, he won't be around long at all and should not be. Briana, no one is happy you have cancer and we wish you the best in your endeavor to deal with it. This is the message to your Father and Brother - this young lady is saying she is responsible. No No Hell No! She is not she is being used - Brian and Pat Bilbray, you threw her into the calderon of politics. You're not looking after the people you're suppose to represent and you sure are not looking after Briana.
RATSJ November 07, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Awwww...Congressman Bilbray lost. The sleazy ad did not help his campaign and his sleazy record in Congress didn't either. The voters finally woke up and got smart. Thank you voters for dumping the bum.
Char November 07, 2012 at 05:45 PM
RatsJ, read the labels, self tanning creams often contain additives that are supposed to prolong self life of the product. However, the ingredients they put in them, like xanthylparaben and methalparaben are carcinogens that are toxic when activated by UV rays. Do some reading on the affects of parabens. As for tanning salons, I really don't understand how they are any worse than going to the AZ RIver ore the beaches and being out in the sun all day, all weekend. You are just as exposed and at risk outdoors as you are indoors. However, indoor tanning is regulated and if one chooses to go indoors to tan, that it their choice. Just like another will choose to go into a bar and drink alcohol. Both can be harmful to you, the key is MODERATION! Same can be said for the processed foods, cigarettes, genetically altered produce and meat, need I say more?????!!!!!!
Char November 07, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I am very happy Bilbray lost, though.
Lynn Marr November 07, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I'm glad, too! But I hope his "sleazy" associate, Christy Guerin, who was his District Director, doesn't try to come back to Encinitas politics. She was TERRIBLE!
RATSJ November 07, 2012 at 06:09 PM
No way will that "B" be let back into this City!
RATSJ November 07, 2012 at 06:10 PM
To Liz....any exposure to ultra-violet rays are not good. People just need to make wise choices. That's all I'm saying.
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