Objecting to a new attack ad, a lawyer for Democrat Ben Jealous’ campaign for governor said Thursday that he sent letters to local TV stations asking them to pull the ad he says was deceptively edited to paint Jealous as a “socialist.”
The ad, paid for by the Republican Governors Association, includes an edited clip of an interview Jealous did with MSNBC to make it look like Jealous was embracing socialism, not rejecting it.
The ad repeatedly quotes Jealous telling an interviewer: “Go ahead, call me a socialist,” but it leaves out Jealous’ next sentence: “That doesn’t change the fact I’m a venture capitalist.”
The Jealous campaign calls the ad deceptive editing.
“It is unmistakable that the Republican Governors Association advertisement is both outright false and misleading to your viewer,” lawyer James J. Temple Jr. wrote to WBAL-TV on behalf of Jealous.
A spokesman for the Jealous campaign said Temple sent the letters to four broadcast stations in Baltimore.
The Republican Governors Association has been pounding Jealous with attack ads for a month — spending more than $1 million on spots targeting the former NAACP president. The deep-pocketed GOP organization said Wednesday that it planned to continue the TV assault with another large ad buy that will stretch throughout August.
In the new ad, the association calls Jealous “too extreme for Maryland,” and suggests Democrats are abandoning him.
“Jealous would raise your taxes, and his radical, irresponsible proposals would destroy our economy,” the ad states.
Temple’s letter marks the Jealous campaign’s latest effort to push back against Republican efforts to brand him as a “socialist” after Jealous proposed programs that would grow the size of state government significantly, including a single-payer health care system and tuition-free education at state public colleges and universities.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan took aim at Jealous over the weekend in an interview with The New York Times.
“He’s a far-left socialist who wants to increase the state budget by 100 percent, increase taxes by 100 percent, free everything,” Hogan said.
In response, the Democrat has been repeatedly emphasizing his work investing in small businesses.
“Almost fell out my chair this morning when I read @LarryHogan called me a “far-left socialist”, then I remembered that’s what Goldwater called MLK and the Tea Party called @BarackObama.... and I smiled and called one of the many entrepreneurs I’ve invested in to laugh about it,” Jealous wrote on Twitter.
On Wednesday, at a news conference in Towson, Jealous responded to a reporter’s question about whether he identified as a socialist by saying, “Are you f---- kidding me?”
He later apologized for what he called “inappropriate language.”
“I have never referred to myself as a socialist nor would I govern as one,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the letter Thursday to the TV stations, Temple cited several articles in which Jealous is referred to as a venture capitalist, not a socialist.
“If the Republican Governors Association had bothered to do their homework on Mr. Jealous, they would learn that Mr. Jealous is a practicing venture capitalist who has invested in numerous startups that are changing their communities for the better,” Temple wrote. “There is abundant evidence in the public record that affirms Mr. Jealous is a venture capitalist and not a socialist.”
He warned the stations that if they do not stop airing the ads, they could risk losing their licenses.
“A failure in this area to prevent the airing of ‘false and misleading advertising’ … could put your station's license in jeopardy,” he wrote.
The Republican Governors Association said it “stands by our ad.”
“The request from Ben Jealous fails to point to a single sentence, clause, phrase or word in the advertisement that is false,” said Jon Thompson, a spokesman for the RGA. “Furthermore, Ben Jealous’ words are his own words. If he regrets saying them — by inviting others to call him a socialist or by issuing profane comments to a news reporter — and wants to take them back, that is an issue for himself and his campaign to resolve, not a matter for TV stations.”
A representative from WBAL-TV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.