Local TV station pulls anti-DeMint ad

Screen grab from Alliance for Full Acceptance targeting Sen. Jim DeMint

U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint’s attorney has succeeded in getting one Charleston media outlet to pull an ad that attacked DeMint’s eight-year-old position against gays teaching in public schools.

Warren Redman-Gress, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance, said the story has received national attention in the gay and lesbian community since it first was reported this week.

“People just can’t believe one person can stop an advocacy campaign just because he doesn’t like the fact he was quoted in it,” he said.

The ad begins: “What if you saw this headline: Senator Jim DeMint: Jews Should Not Teach Public School. You wouldn’t tolerate such blatant prejudice and persecution. Substitute the word ‘gay’ and the reality is, you do.”

DeMint’s Washington attorney, Cleta Mitchell, had asked Charleston area televisions stations to pull the ad.

WCBD Channel 2 had asked the alliance to edit the ad by including a disclaimer clarifying that the first headline with the word “Jews” in it was not a real headline. A similar disclaimer appears under the second headline clarifying that it’s real.

WCBD station manager Rick Lipps said he made the request to eliminate any confusion, not in reaction to political pressure.

AFFA declined to edit the ad, so WCBD pulled it. In response, AFFA declined to let the station air its two less controversial ads.

In an email from Mitchell to a local television station, Mitchell claimed the ad portrayed DeMint, R-S.C., as anti-Semitic, though Charleston’s Jewish community has raised no concerns along that line.

Mitchell declined to comment, saying, “I just can’t talk about the work I do for my clients.” DeMint’s staff also declined comment, but Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said he found the ad “incredibly offensive and unfair to Senator DeMint.”

Brooks called DeMint “a great friend of the Jewish community.”

During his 2004 Senate bid, DeMint said he didn’t think gays should teach in public school — a remark reportedly widely around the state, and the ad was designed to show how the public still accepts discrimination against gays and lesbians, Redman-Gress said.

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The ad fuss differs from the usual political campaign ad flaps because DeMint isn’t up for re-election anytime soon, nor is there a related issue on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Jeri Cabot, an adjunct political science professor at the College of Charleston, said it’s rare for politicians to try to remove an ad.

“They don’t want to be accused of being hypocritical when they throw out their own critical, negative, verging-on-distortion ad,” she said.

Redman-Gress said he feels DeMint’s efforts to pull the spot have backfired. “By calling attention to it, Senator DeMint has actually helped us spread the message of nondiscrimination. More people have seen that ad because of his objections to it,” he said.

The DeMint ad was one of three commercials that began airing June 18 to raise public awareness of how widespread discriminatory attitudes are toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. The $30,000 campaign was set to end next week, so the station’s decision not to air the ads affects only a small percentage from being shown.

The other two ads feature a Massachusetts student attacked for supporting gay rights and a controversial Michigan bullying bill that allows expression of moral viewpoints.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.