CBS’s ad expert claimed on Thursday’s "Early Show" that the Republicans in Tennessee are playing on "racist," "Reconstruction era" fears in the Senate campaign against Democrat Harold Ford Jr. While the RNC spot in question in its entirety hits Ford’s record and what his election would mean to Tennessee, CBS played only a brief segment, including where a "playboy bunny" tells Ford to "call me." Whereas this was denounced by the media as racist, there was no discussion on CBS of Mr. Ford making his moral values an issue by filming a political commercial inside of a church.
CBS called upon "Ad Week" magazine’s Barbara Lippert for their segment, and Lippert described the RNC spot:
"Yes, well, you know, that sort of looked like a phone sex ad. It's just bad. It's just, you know, cheesy and it sort of picks on all the racist things like from the Reconstruction era, you know, that black men will be all over white women. And, it's so ugly that I think, you know, people will want to reject it. Even Republicans, you know, see a basic unfairness in it."
The CBS segment featured Lippert, CBS News National Political correspondent Gloria Borger, and "Early Show" Co-host Hannah Storm. While there was criticism for the RNC spot running in Tennessee, there was praise for the Michael J. Fox ad running in Missouri on behalf of Democrat Claire McCaskill. Lippert declared the Fox commercial to be powerful and raw, but there was no discussion over the factual accuracy of claims he made in the ad. Lippert then proceeded to offer her critiques to an advertisement run in response to Mr. Fox, starring actors Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in the "Passion of the Christ" and Patricia Heaton from "Everybody Loves Raymond." Lippert assessed these ads:
"Well I think what sets it apart is it's so heartfelt and raw and powerful for a major star like this who is even known to TV viewers, you know, as Alex, you know, from that TV show, for him to lay himself there this way and show himself as so vulnerable and so affected by this disease is just amazing. And, I think it's, you know, it has to break through and it has to get to you."
"Well, you know, it's celebrity versus celebrity, five celebrities, bam bam. And I think, you know, you can't say no to Jesus. Jesus has his effect. But I think the genius of the Michael J. Fox thing is how under done it is, just so that you focus on Michael. Here the production values are terrible because the creativity isn't getting it out so quickly and the problem then is that it sounds bad, and it looks bad."
Borger was less critical regarding the Ford ad, noting it was probably effective:
"Well, what's really interesting is that it was produced by an independent expenditure group. These are groups that come in, spend their own money at the end of a campaign and drop these ads. The Republican candidate Mr. Corker disavowed it, but of course it did play in the district. They have now started to take it off the air, but it's sort of had its impact. And again the ad was supposed to get out those voters who don't like Harold Ford who might have been thinking about sitting at home this election, and so you could say that it's probably working."
It is probably working because Ford made his moral values an issue when he aired an ad of him inside a church. It seems attending a Superbowl party hosted by Playboy and simply defending the attendance by claiming he likes football and he likes girls, runs contrary to the values Ford professes to possess. That is why the ‘playboy" aspects of the ad are effective, not because of racism as claimed by Ms. Lippert and others in the media.
We are nearing the end of a grueling election cycle and, granted, there are negative ads being run. But these ads are being run by both political parties, not just Republicans. So where was the discussion of negative ads run by Democrats? As Tim Graham noted in an MRC Media Reality Check on October 25, the media have been silent on Democratic ads all cycle, and it appears the "Early Show’ simply continued this trend.