King of Offensive Political Attack Ads
The Most Offensive Attack Ad Ever?
If there’s a recipe for the ultimate jaw-dropping attack ad, this spot must have followed it to the letter. Ladd Ehlinger Jr., a former NASA and U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command animator, stirred up controversy when he released this attack ad against Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn this week. Ehlinger was hired to direct the video by the PAC Turn Right USA, in support of Hahn’s challenger, Craig Huey. Hahn, a Democrat, and Huey, a Tea Partier, are facing off for the congressional seat vacated by Jane Harman (a Newsweek/Daily Beast board member). Between a stripper vaguely resembling the councilwoman and gun-slinging would-be gangsters singing “Give me your cash, bitch, so we can shoot up the streets,” while smacking her lower half, Ehlinger manages to cram enough racism and sexism into 90 seconds that the video prompted the Hahn camp to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission. “I thought I’d seen extreme, offensive campaign ads before, but then I saw the latest video posted by Craig Huey supporters,” Hahn wrote on her website. Huey has yet to comment on the video, though Ehlinger has refused to apologize.
Peterson’s Trigger-Happy Ad
There’s nothing more democratic than threatening your opponent’s supporters with gunfire. At least that seems to be the case losing Alabama agricultural commissioner candidate Dale Peterson made in his 2010 Ehlinger-directed spot. After Peterson lost the Republican primary, he came out in support of the winner, John McMillan, with this take-no-living-prisoners ad. The video seems innocuous enough—at least until the last 30 seconds, when an intruder attempts to steal a McMillan campaign sign from Peterson’s lawn. Naturally, Peterson thwarts the “thug” by firing a shotgun in his direction. The video made Peterson a Keith Olbermann “Worst Person in the World,” but is hardly weird—for a director responsible for a feature-length independent movie about a conservative talk-show host who survives an apocalypse. Apparently, Peterson’s gun-toting ways worked; McMillan won the election.
Barney Frank Does the ‘Barney Funk’
Before Ehlinger used a stripper that looked like Janice Hahn to dance in an ad, he tested his special effects on Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank. Sean Bielat, Frank’s GOP opponent, said he didn’t “dance around the issues ” as Frank does in this ad—and does the fake Frank ever. The dancing Frank gets down under two disco balls with moves that could rival John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, as the real Barney Frank’s voice references the real-estate bubble and his votes in Congress. The congressman dances his way from the capital to a beach before coming face to face with Bielat, but in the end, the most offensive thing about this video is its production value.
Pelosi: The Wicked Witch of the Left
Lions and tigers and former speakers, oh my? One of the few Ehlinger ads with a narrative—more or less, this attack spot against Nancy Pelosi portrays the Democrat as the Wicked Witch who’s come to wreak havoc on Dorothy. The wannabe red-slippered ingénue laments that she just doesn’t “want a home blown away by debt” before a witch vaguely resembling Pelosi flies in on a broomstick. Thankfully, 2010 GOP opponent John Dennis arrives on the scene just before the witch’s IRS monkeys overtake Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion—and Dennis kills the witch with a bucket of “freedom.” The Washington Post might have called the video “catchy,” but we wish this one had stayed in Oz.
The Establishment Wants to ‘Whack’ the Voters
Francis Ford Coppola, beware. This play on The Godfather might make you want to whack yourself. An ad for Michigan independent candidate Glenn Wilson shows two actors plotting to take down the 2010 U.S. congressional hopeful through various Mafioso methods. “Don Rino” and “Don Dino” discuss their “territories” in Michigan being “mucked up” by “persona non grata” Wilson and, of course, suggest winning the election by whacking the voters. Behold the ad Ehlinger called one of his “personal favorites.”
The Founding Fathers Reincarnated
What Tea Partier Rick Barber’s 2010 ad lacks in racist and sexist undertones, it makes up for in bad acting and cheesy costumes. In the spot, Barber sits across the table from George Washington, Sam Adams, and Ben Franklin, attempting to rile up the historical figures by reciting the ills of today. “You gentlemen revolted over a tea tax—a tea tax! Now look at us,” Barber says. At the end, the would-be Washington is moved: “Gather your armies,” he says, through gritted teeth. The first president, Adams, and Franklin just rolled over in their graves.