Citing image of Fred Phelps with hate sign, cable news channel declines to run spot
The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR) are crying foul after CNN, the 24-hour news channel, refused to run an ad produced by the gay Republican group. CNN said that an image in the ad of Fred Phelps, the Kansas preacher, holding two signs reading “God Hates Fags” was inappropriate.
“What they said was that the final frame, the frame that shows Fred Phelps, was quote too controversial,” said Christopher Barron, LCR’s political director. “Our position is that is like saying we are happy to air the Super Bowl we just won’t air the fourth quarter.”
The ad opened with the image of Ronald Reagan, an iconic figure in Republican Party politics, and a Reagan quote saying, “Whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears.”
A voice-over then asks: “Will we unite on things that matter most, like supporting our troops and winning the war on terror?”
Then images of television commentator and former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, three iconic figures of anti-gay bigotry, fade into the picture of Phelps, who is best known for picketing funerals of gay men.
The voice-over continued with: “Or will we divide the American family with the politics of intolerance and fear that can only lead to hate? Our choice is clear.”
CNN in Atlanta told LCR it would air the ad, but only if the Phelps image were removed.
“As we do with all advertising, we viewed the ad in advance and we determined that one image was inappropriate,” said Edna Johnson, a CNN spokesperson. “We asked that this image be replaced or removed and we committed to airing it if the image was replaced or removed.”
The gay Republicans say that the Phelps image has everything to do with the ad’s message.
“The whole crux of the ad is that final frame,” Barron said. “The message of the ad is that the politics of intolerance and fear lead to hate. That final frame is critical to making that point… Unfortunately for far too many gay and lesbian Americans that image is one we have seen up close and personal.”
Johnson said the cable channel was not trying to alter the ad’s message. It only wanted the offending image removed.
“We did not believe the image was appropriate in the form of a commercial,” Johnson said. “We asked that the image be removed or replaced. We did not discuss the message.”
The gay Republicans were angered by the party platform that supported an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban gay marriage and the vocal support that Pres. George W. Bush has given to that amendment. On September 8, the group announced that it would not endorse the president.
While CNN’s sales office in Atlanta would not run the ad with the Phelps image, LCR was able to place the ad with Time Warner Cable of New York City, which aired the ad, unchanged, on CNN and New York 1 News. The cable operation, CNN, and New York 1 News are all units of Time Warner. The ad also ran on Fox News.
Time Warner was a major sponsor of the Republican National Convention which was held in New York City where the company headquarters are located. The ad ran during the convention and LCR said it expected the ad would be seen by convention delegates “hundreds of times.”
A Time Warner spokesperson said each unit of the company set its own standards.
“Time Warner does not have a companywide ad sales policy,” said Tricia Primrose, a company spokesperson. “Rather each of our divisions have their own standards that allow them to make judgments that are appropriate for their medium and audience.”
CNN has run other ads that are highly controversial such as those produced by the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth, a group of Bush partisans, that contain statements that are unproven and, in some instances, demonstrably false.
The ad was covered by CNN’s news department, according to Matthew Furman, also a CNN spokesperson. He said the Time Warner convention sponsorship and the ad’s rejection were unrelated.
“Our decisions are made within CNN and not discussed with anyone outside of CNN,” Furman said.