NBC Tries to Discredit GOP Ad as Racist, Condemns Limbaugh's Slap at Michael J. Fox

Another campaign, another opportunity for the mainstream media to discredit a Republican campaign ad as racist. On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams declared: “Tonight some are saying that one commercial in particular in one very close Senate race has now crossed a racial line.” Andrea Mitchell proceeded to critique the RNC ad attacking Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford and in offering a second example of how the “mid-year elections are getting rough,” Mitchell castigated Rush Limbaugh, ignoring the inaccurate Democratic ad he had criticized. The Tennessee ad made fun of how Ford once attended a Playboy party. In it, a white female recalls how “I met Harold at the Playboy party" and the ad ended with her whispering: "Harold, call me." Mitchell pounced: "The NAACP said the ad, quote, 'plays to pre-existing prejudices about African-American men and white women'” and “advertising experts like Jerry Della Femina, a Republican, says it is a blatant racial appeal."

Mitchell moved to Limbaugh: "Take a look at what Rush Limbaugh is saying about Michael J. Fox, the actor who suffers from Parkinson's disease and is campaigning for Democrats who support stem cell research. Limbaugh said Fox was acting, exploiting his illness, when he taped this ad for the Democratic Senate candidate in Maryland." Viewers saw a clip of Limbaugh: "He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act." But Mitchell ignored how Fox was injecting politics into medical research funding policy, how Fox has admitted going off his meds in order to look worse and that Limbaugh was also criticizing Fox's anti-Talent ad in Missouri in which Fox made the distorted claim that “Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us the chance for hope." Plus, it's worth noting that Fox was a lot more steady in a clip of him responding to Limbaugh. (Transcripts from NBC and Limbaugh follow, as well as from ABC)

Video of Mitchell's hit on Limbaugh with two clips of Fox in different conditions -- see screen shots below (1:00): Real (1.7 MB) or Windows Media (2 MB), plus MP3 audio (350 KB)

In contrast, in a story on ABC's World News focusing on the Fox ads, Jake Tapper played the more insidious Fox ad (YouTube video) and noted how “the Talent campaign called the Fox ad 'false' since Senator Talent supports stem cell research that doesn't involve destroying a human embryo. Rush Limbaugh went much further, actually suggesting Fox was acting." Tapper played audio of Limbaugh: “In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act." Tapper clarified: "After listeners contacted Limbaugh to say it was no act, the radio host apologized.”

An excerpt from a transcript of Limbaugh's Tuesday's radio show as posted by Rush Limbaugh.com:
...[E]mbryonic stem cell research is currently legal and completely unrestricted in both Maryland and Missouri....They bring forth people who they think are victims for the purposes of exploiting them, and when you bring forth -- for example, if you're talking about embryonic stem cell research, and you want to convey the notion that the Republicans are opposed to it, and in effect they're for people having Parkinson's Disease. Make no mistake that's what the intent is.

Then you bring forth a person who's suffering the disease, and you illustrate the disease and the ravages and the suffering on TV to create sympathy and infallibility, because you're not supposed to be able to attack somebody or criticize somebody in any way or in any regard if they suffer from the disease. It's considered cold-hearted and cruel. What's happening here is that Michael Fox has entered the political arena with his attack, which includes false information about Senator Talent and Michael Steele in Maryland. That's fair game, and I am not going to follow the script that says we're not allowed to comment on the things said by participants, "victims," what have you, that the Democrats put forth as infallible in the middle of a political campaign.

I would argue that Mr. Fox is damaging what has traditionally been a bipartisan effort at addressing and curing illnesses, and that is the primary point here. Democrats are politicizing diseases and illnesses. The Breck Girl, John Edwards, promising, if John Kerry is elected, that Christopher Reeve and others with spinal paralysis would walk, when there's no such is evidence that any research into embryonic stem cells will create any immediate cure toward anything. It is irresponsible to mislead victims of people suffering from these horrible diseases in such a fashion. But that's exactly what has happened.

That's what the Democrats are doing, politicizing diseases and illnesses, damaging what has traditionally been a bipartisan effort at addressing and curing illnesses, and the same time they claim if you don't embrace their political and cultural agenda, then you're for Parkinson's disease, and you are for spinal paralysis....

I did some research today, and I found his book that was published. It's 'Lucky Man,' 2002, but he admits in the book that before Senate subcommittee on appropriations I think in 1999, September of 1999, he did not take his medication for the purposes of having the ravages and the horrors of Parkinson's disease illustrated, which was what he has done in the commercials that are running for Claire McCaskill and Jim Talent....

(On Monday's show, the day from which NBC and ABC lifted the Limbaugh soundbite, Limbaugh was clearly targeting the Missouri ad, so Mitchell had no excuse to ignore that one with its more inflamatory charge about Senator Talent wanting to "criminalize" effort to cure Parkinson's.)

Indeed, in his book Fox recalled:
I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.
Taking on the ad for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, in which Fox declares that “Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us the chance for hope,” National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez observed that the ad “pulls on voters’ heartstrings and serves up an unfair and disingenuous message” about a Missouri ballot initiative which opponents believe will allow cloning. An excerpt from her October 23 posting:
In a commercial drowning in false hope and overhype, Michael J. Fox, Claire McCaskill, and their funders don’t mention that stem-cell research -- including embryo-destroying research -- is already legal and happening not just in Missouri but across the U.S. What they also don’t tell you is that in creating a constitutional right to human cloning, the Missouri amendment is more radical than anything even the United Nations is currently willing to do. The commercial also doesn’t mention that there are some real potential drawbacks to jumping into embryonic-stem-cell research for Parkinson’s patients. Embryonic-stem-cell research is not the panacea its advocates would have you believe.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the October 24 NBC and ABC evening newscast stories:

NBC Nightly News.
Brian Williams: "And now to 'Decision 2006,' and with two weeks to go before this election, things are decidedly getting personal. Negative campaign ads on both sides are all over the airwaves if you haven't noticed already. Tonight some are saying that one commercial in particular in one very close Senate race has now crossed a racial line. We get the story from NBC News correspondent Andrea Mitchell."

Andrea Mitchell: "Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford could become the first African-American elected to the Senate from the South since Reconstruction. But crossing that color barrier may not be easy. Watch this Republican ad for his opponent."

Woman #1 in RNC ad: "I met Harold at the Playboy party."

Woman #2 in same ad: "I'd love to pay higher marriage taxes."

Man #1 in same ad: "Canada can take care of North Korea. They're not busy."

Man #2 in same ad: "So he took money from porn movie producers. I mean, who hasn't?"

Female voice in same ad: "The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising."

Woman #1 whispering in ad: "Harold, call me."

Mitchell: "The NAACP said the ad, quote, 'plays to pre-existing prejudices about African-American men and white women.' A spokesman for Ford's Republican opponent, Bob Corker, said the ad was over the top and should be taken off the air. But on MSNBC today, party chairman Ken Mehlman defended it to Tim Russert."

Ken Mehlman, RNC Chairman: "African-American folks, Hispanic folks and myself, we all looked at it, all of us, I think, are sensitive to that, and we did not have that same reaction to it. So I just think there's a disagreement about it."

Mitchell: "Advertising experts like Jerry Della Femina, a Republican, say it is a blatant racial appeal."

Jerry Della Femina, advertising executive: "This is clearly an attempt to attack Harold Ford in a racist way, and, you know, a blonde, a Playboy bunny. You know, it's just wrong."

Mitchell: "The Tennessee race isn't the only sign that the mid-year elections are getting rough. Take a look at what Rush Limbaugh is saying about Michael J. Fox, the actor who suffers from Parkinson's disease and is campaigning for Democrats who support stem cell research. Limbaugh said Fox was acting, exploiting his illness, when he taped this ad for the Democratic Senate candidate in Maryland."

Michael J. Fox in ad: "Stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans with diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. But George Bush and Michael Steele would put limits on the most promising stem cell research."

Rush Limbaugh, from Web video: "He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act."

Mitchell: "In Illinois today, Fox responded."

Fox: "What I love is, we're close to an election and we're talking about stem cells, and, you know, that's the idea."

Mitchell: "With so much at stake, there's every indication this year's campaign could get even uglier. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News."

ABC's World News.
Charles Gibson: "There is a highly emotional issue being raised in a few hotly-contested races across the country, being raised by a high-profile entertainer. The celebrity is Michael J. Fox. The issue is stem cell research. Fox is appearing in a series of ads targeting specific candidates with a very personal message. Here's ABC's Jake Tapper."

Jake Tapper: "Michael J. Fox has been an impassioned advocate for years-"

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA): "This is Michael J. Fox's third appearance before this subcommittee."

Tapper: "-lobbying for embryonic stem cell research, which he argues can help people who suffer as he does from Parkinson's disease. But Fox has never injected himself so directly and so emotionally on the campaign trail and on TV until now."

Michael J. Fox in TV ad: "In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures. Unfortunately, Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research. Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."

Tapper: "That's one of three TV ads so far Fox has recorded for candidates this season. This one goes after Republican Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, where embryonic stem cell research is also on the ballot as a referendum. Today, the Talent campaign called the Fox ad 'false' since Senator Talent supports stem cell research that doesn't involve destroying a human embryo. Rush Limbaugh went much further, actually suggesting Fox was acting."

Audio of Rush Limbaugh: "In this commercial, he is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He is moving all around and shaking, and it's purely an act."

Tapper: "After listeners contacted Limbaugh to say it was no act, the radio host apologized. Roughly 60 percent of Americans support embryonic stem cell research, though it's unclear how many will cast votes based on the issue. Regardless, politicians across the spectrum are trying to use it to their advantage. A Democratic group is running this ad which vilifies Republicans who oppose this research."

Unidentified girl in ad: "How come he thinks he gets to decide who lives and who dies? Who is he?"

Tapper: "An anti-abortion activist who opposed the destruction of embryos used the issue to target and rally troops to the polls through fliers, letters to churches and radio ads against the research."

Clip of ad: "Which ballot amendment seems family-friendly but would let scientists buy and sell human eggs?"

Tapper: "A debate about life, science and faith, distilled to raw and passionate politics. Jake Tapper, ABC News, Washington."
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