The Republican National Committee said Wednesday it was taking off the air an attack ad that critics said was a racial slur against Democratic Tennessee Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr., one day after the party’s chairman said he saw nothing wrong with it.
The ad - in which a young, white actress talks about meeting Ford , a 36-year-old bachelor who is black, “at the Playboy party” and invites him to “call me” - was denounced as a race-baiting tactic by the Ford campaign, the NAACP and Republican former Sen. Bill Cohen.
Bob Corker , Ford’s Republican opponent for the seat being vacated by Senate Republican leader Bill Frist, also called it “tacky” and asked that it be pulled.
Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the RNC, insisted that the ad, which RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman defended Tuesday in an interview on MSNBC-TV, wasn’t being “pulled.” He said the decision had nothing to do with the controversy; instead, the ad had simply “run its course.”
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Officially, the ad was commissioned and paid for by the RNC’s independent expenditure unit, which isn’t allowed to coordinate or communicate with the national party or its candidates. That became a point of contention as Republicans fought among themselves over who was responsible for the spot.
Even though it included a disclaimer that said “the Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising,” Mehlman maintained Tuesday that the RNC couldn’t do anything about it. But Ford, a five-term member of the House, told MSNBC, “I do know that if my opponent wanted this ad pulled down, he could get it pulled down.”
Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, said in a statement Wednesday that he had called for its removal less than an hour after first seeing it last week. “The ad is tacky, over the top and does not reflect the kind of campaign that we are running,” he said. “Tennesseans deserve better and we are grateful the ad is no longer airing.”
In its place is a new spot called “Shaky,” which started airing Sunday in Knoxville but has expanded statewide. It alleges that Ford “took cash from Hollywood's top X-rated porn moguls” and that he “wants to give the abortion pill to our schoolchildren.”
It includes the same disclaimer saying the RNC is responsible for its content.
NBC News producer Jen Yuille contributed to this report.
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