One of the more dirty campaign seasons in recent memory got a little muckier in recent days thanks to some controversial political ads revolving around the tight senatorial race in Tennessee between Republican candidate Bob Corker and the Democratic candidate, Representative Harold Ford Jr.
One of the two GOP-funded ads to stir up controversy includes a white actress suggestively stating she met Ford, who is black, at the Playboy mansion. At the end of the ad, which detractors say taps into fears of interracial relations, she asks the congressman to call her. The second ad, a radio spot aired in Tennessee, consists of negative descriptions of Ford accompanied by music that some critics have described as “jungle drums.”
With historically volatile issues of racism rising to the surface, and a national legislature at stake, bloggers marched to battle.
Writes Political Sapphire: “Obviously, Corker and the Republican National Senatorial Committee know Tennessee a lot better than folks gave them credit for (not that this wouldn’t play right here in California too, given that the Klan and John Birchers haven’t gone anywhere really but underground out here). After all, it was only a couple of years ago when the Tennessee GOP ran good-old-boy James Hart (aka Son of Hitler, to the right of David Duke) for a congressional seat out there. Trying to link Harold Ford (a young black bachelor no matter how many almost-decolorized photos Newsweek runs of him) to white women anywhere in the South (even a ho-case like the one in the GOP ad) is like trying to chain Ford to political kryptonite.”
Questioned last night by NBC’s Tim Russert about whether he thought the ad should be taken down, Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman replied that, even if he wanted to, he was unable to do so. “I think it’s a fair ad,” Mehlman said.
For the most part, conservative bloggers agreed.
“The ad is clearly not racist,” argues Erick at Red State. “That Harold had to start screaming racism about the ad has been very telling — for Democratic losers, that’s usually where they head. And cries of racism from a silver-spooned congressman go over horribly in areas of Tennessee that Harold needs to win — areas that are predominately white, but have been wavering over whom to vote for.
“A side bonus? Harold finally had to admit he hangs out with the Playboy bunnies.”
One commentator attempted to shed some light on the all-important casting decisions.
Notes Volunteer Voters: “The RNC wanted to exploit Harold Ford’s attendance at a Playboy party. To do that, they had to introduce the stereotype of the ‘Playboy Party Girl.’ That stereotype is white. Pure and simple.”
“Let’s imagine for a second that the RNC had presented a black girl as the Playboy bunny,” the blogger adds. “First, it would have fallen flat. It wouldn’t have resonated, it wouldn’t have made sense, it would have been dishonest. Sure, black women are in Playboy all the time and attend those parties but they are a strong minority. This is a political ad not a piece of art. Tearing down stereotypes is a job for higher forms of media.”
Many liberal bloggers, on the other hand, were outraged.
“The Southern Strategy — appealing to the racist base — isn’t just alive and well in the Republican Party, it seems to be making a sudden resurgence,” writes Hunter at Daily Kos. “Jungle drums? Seriously, freakin’ jungle drums? Are we back in the goddamn nineteenth century now, or is it just Corker himself in this little GOP time warp? Corker’s ‘jungle drums’ ad isn’t just ‘a little bit’ racist. It’s not something that can be misconstrued. It’s flagrant, it’s obvious, it’s intentional.”
One blogger attempted to link the scandal to a larger national strategy.