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Radio Ad Flap

Michael Steele this morning demanded that the National Black Republican Association halt its advertising campaign on radio stations in Baltimore, calling the ads "insulting."

The 60-second ads identify Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican and pin the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on Democrats. In the spot, one woman says: "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan."

"The Klan?" her friend replies. "White hoods and sheets?"

First woman: "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

Second woman: "Seriously?"

You can listen to the entire ad at the group's web site.

In an interview yesterday, Steele said he had not heard the 60-second spot but said he generally does not oppose Republican efforts to assert their "real place in history." Today, though, his campaign released a statement blasting the ad.

"NBRA's current radio ad is insulting to Marylanders and should come down immediately," the statement says. "Although they may have had good intentions, there is no room for this kind of slash-and-burn partisan politics in the important conversation about how to best bring meaningful change to Washington, D.C. and get something done for Maryland."

The statement said Steele's campaign contacted NBRA and demanded the ad be removed from the air immediately. The group's executive director, Frances Rice, did not return a message left at her office yesterday. The group did, however, release a statement saying the ad "sets the record straight ... demonstrating that it was Republicans, not Democrats, who championed civil rights for blacks over the past 150 years."

Ronald Walters, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, said he heard the ad while driving yesterday and found the historical references to be distortions.

"It is a totally fallacious rendition of the platform of the parties because, in effect, what happened is, the two parties essentially switched ideology," Walters said, describing how most African American voters, as well as civil rights advocates, migrated from the Republican to the Democratic party over the course of the 20th century.

The ad brought immediate condemnation from Democrats, who called it misleading and ill-intentioned.

"That's despicable. Downright despicable," said Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D), a former state Democratic chairman who is his party's nominee for Montgomery County executive.

"To run that kind of ad, to assume we are so stupid to fall for that kind of baloney, to use Dr. King's name in a cheap political ad like that, in my opinion, this will not be something African Americans will fall for," said Leggett, who is black.

The ad was paid for by the NBRA's 527 affailate, the Black Republican Freedom Fund. The size of the ad buy appears to have been very small. On one radio station in Baltimore, WWIN-FM, the group spent $2,500 for four spots

By  |  September 21, 2006; 10:09 AM ET
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I think these are the very types of ads that Steele eschewed in his puppy spot. I'm glad he has asked for the removal of this radio ad. Perhaps he realizes that he will need the votes of some very staunchly Democratic Black voters and to vilify them is not the way to go.

Posted by: jules | September 21, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

I think these are the very types of ads that Steele eschewed in his puppy spot. I'm glad he has asked for the removal of this radio ad. Perhaps he realizes that he will need the votes of some very staunchly Democratic Black voters and to vilify them is not the way to go.

Posted by: jules | September 21, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Why would the Post play racial politics and only call the Democratic candidate for county executive who happens to be black? Does the paper believe one has to be "black" to comment on a matter involving advertising on radio stations that primarily appeal to African Americans? Wouldn't an Independent candidate who was chosen to by Rosa Parks, Aaron Henry, Jacqueline Jackson and Hobart Jackson to be the first legal counsel for the National Caucus on the Black Aged be better able to mediate an argument between the parties? Is Leggett going to be the paper's in-house expert on "black" matters wheh his vote in the Primary amounted to only ll% of the registered voters. When is the paper going to start covering the county executive ggeneral election campaign? After the election? Isn't this article just one more step in your attempt to dictate a choice in this race? On Sunday the paper on page C-4 said that Leggett was running against "two republicans," without naming them. You have yet to correct that statement.

Posted by: Robin Ficker Independent for Montgomery County Executive | September 21, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

Ads like these remind me of the ones in Texas that tried to claim the Bush was responsible for the dragging death of James Byrd.

I guess the gander objected!

Best not to sink to their level. I'm glad Steele is calling for the ads to be pulled.

Posted by: Rufus | September 21, 2006 12:02 PM | Report abuse

But how much do you want to bet that Steele gets zero credit from the left on his position. In the eyes of the partisan extremists, he can do no right.

Posted by: JD | September 21, 2006 12:09 PM | Report abuse

It's that conspiracy again, huh Robin? I guess you're still mad because you did so badly at that candidates' event yesterday. On another blog you said you were going to be "Gary Cooper in High Noon", but you turned out more like Don Knotts, didn't you

Posted by: Pepe le Moco | September 21, 2006 1:42 PM | Report abuse

what party did Martin Luther King, Jr. register with? I have studied Dr. King's life extensively but I don't know the answer.

Posted by: actually curious | September 21, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Nice try, JD, but before I even saw your comment I went to Steele's web site to send him a comment that, even though I'm a progressive liberal who usually votes Democratic, he has earned my respect and serious consideration. More importantly, he's trying to keep the tone from going negative. Now, I still don't think I agree with him on enough of the issues to vote for him, but I will give him his due before I vote, and even if he calculated that not condemning the ads would be political suicide, he's already shown worlds more sense than his last running mate.

Posted by: The Cosmic Avenger | September 21, 2006 2:19 PM | Report abuse

It is playing rough, and there is additional context that the other side can point to - but it is true that the Democratic party doesn't have a spotless history when it comes to race. Given some of the attacks that are leveled against Republicans (even African-American Republicans), it's not that surprising that some would strike back this way.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 21, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Ficker probably got every vote at the Hispanic Chamber meeting. Why did Leggett say he had to leave as soon as he spoke? Why did he refuse to take a question from Ficker? Why is he still ducking debate?

Posted by: silverman fan | September 21, 2006 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Gee, Robin, when did you become a Silverman fan? You were full of boasts about how you were going to "out debate" Leggett, but you fell flat on your Ficker.

Posted by: Pepe le Moco | September 21, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Just read a Gazette item about Ficker's performance at the Hispanic Chamber event. It seems everybody laughed at him when he tried to speak Spanish. Gee, Robin, tell us again how everybody in the room is going to vote for you. That's funny, too!

Posted by: Pepe le Moco | September 22, 2006 12:28 AM | Report abuse

I am certain that Dr. King had major problems with BOTH parties during his lifetime. Remember that the Democrats still dominated the South through the 1960's, so his national politics would have been different than his local politics. Southern blacks had no good choices in the south outside of black candidates during that time period.

I remember reading that the NAACP and other civil rights leaders toyed with the idea of supporting the Nixon in 1960 because they were seriously displeased with Kennedy who could not afford to piss off Southern whties. However, it is impossible to imagine anyone in the civil rights movement supporting Goldwater over Johnson in 64.

Posted by: Ben Johnson | September 22, 2006 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Steele's Black Republican really was despicable, ugly, and historically so inaccurate that it is embarrassing for Mr. Steele. Why didn't he renounce it earlier? He may "love puppies" but he allows those lies and misrepresentations to be aired on his behalf? Not cool. Also, didn't all those former southern "Democrats" who supported segregation,etc. leave the party and become Republicans when the Democrats passed the Civil Rights Act? Civil rights is just too important an issue for this country to lie and mislead about it in a campaign ad. Why doesn't Mr. Steele take our civil rights history seriously and respect all those that worked for equal rights?

Posted by: Anonymous | September 22, 2006 4:34 PM | Report abuse

To the anonymous poster that asks why Steele "didn't renounce the ad earlier," get real. He denounced it when it came out. Furthermore, it was not "his" ad. It was an ad put out by an independent group. He did not put the ad on the air, so don't blame him for it. In fact, he denounced it, so it seems he's doing exactly what you want.

Posted by: MK | September 23, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Who cares? Saying Steele should apologize or is linked etc is the same as saying Cardin is connected to the moveon as the repugs do. Let bygones be begones. I am angry as a Prince George's County resident at Cardin's staffer and will look for him to stand against racism and racially tained staffers in the future.

Posted by: Observer | September 25, 2006 4:10 PM | Report abuse

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