Broadcast and cable news gave GOP free air time for new fearmongering terrorism ad

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

The Republican National Committee's (RNC) new political ad -- featuring clips of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists making threats against the United States and clips of explosions -- has not yet aired as a paid advertisement, but broadcast and cable news networks have already played portions of it several times as part of their news programming -- essentially giving the RNC the opportunity to fearmonger on their airwaves free of charge.

On October 19, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced the release of a new advertisement, titled "Stakes," that features clips of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists making threats against the United States and clips of explosions, with a ticking clock and a heartbeat playing in the background. According to the RNC press release: "The ad highlights the high stakes America faces in the global war on terror by using the words of the terrorists themselves as they describe their intention towards the United States." On October 20, the RNC announced that it "has purchased advertising time on national cable news outlets to air the ad on television on Sunday, October 22." The broadcast and cable news networks, however, have already played portions of the ad several times as part of their news programming -- essentially giving the RNC the opportunity to fearmonger on their airwaves free of charge.

MSNBC aired portions of the ad at least three times on October 20 -- during the 9 a.m., 10 a.m., and 11 a.m. ET editions of MSNBC News Live. The 9 a.m. edition featured RNC press secretary Tracey Schmitt defending the ad and Democratic National Committee communications director Karen Finney criticizing it. Similarly, the 10 a.m. edition featured conservative radio host Michael Graham and radio host "Lionel" (real name: Michael LeBron), who defended and criticized the ad, respectively. On the 11 a.m. edition, the advertisement was aired during a segment featuring Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Price defended the ad's message, but anchor and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell ended the segment before Van Hollen could offer his response. Portions of the ad were also aired on the October 20 broadcast of NBC's Today during a report by chief White House correspondent David Gregory, who simply noted that the ad "highlight[ed] the threat to America."

The October 20 edition of CNN's American Morning aired portions of the ad three times. Co-host Miles O'Brien, at one point, said the ad "tries to refocus voters on the war on terror," and CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider compared it to the infamous "Daisy" ad run by Lyndon Johnson's campaign during the 1964 presidential election, suggesting it may not resonate with voters because "voters are fearful, perhaps, that this administration has become too provocative and confrontational." Earlier in the program, co-host Soledad O'Brien also made the "Daisy" comparison, but noted simply that that GOP ad is "an attempt at another powerful message there."

Portions of the ad also aired on the October 20 edition of CNN's Your World Today, which also featured a response from Finney: "Once again, we see that the GOP will truly do and say anything regardless of whether or not it's true. They are so desperate to hold on to power." Later, on the October 20 edition of CNN Newsroom, Schneider again made the comparison to "Daisy," and again noted that the ad may not work because polling shows that Americans do not feel safer because of the Iraq war.

Fox News aired a portion of the ad on the October 20 edition of Fox News Live; anchor E.D. Hill described it as "hard-hitting," and then discussed the ad with House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), who defended the ad despite claiming that he had not yet seen it. Portions of the ad were also aired on the October 20 edition of Fox News' Your World; host Neil Cavuto described it as "pretty strong stuff" and discussed the ad with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who also defended its content despite claiming not to have seen it.

None of the broadcasts featured any contemporaneous Democratic advertisements.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.