Hall of Shame
The Strangest, Cheesiest, Most Brazenly False Political Ads of 2014
A giggling Mitch McConnell. A Texas production that will make you hate the movie Frozen. A Democrat taking aim at her opponent’s wheelchair. These are our big (bad) winners.
It might not be awards season, but we do have a midterm election fast approaching, one in which 60 percent of us who can vote will elect not to do so. That means the moldy cake of our political process is getting an extra layer of frosting in the form of a torrent of political ads, designed to drag our vote, screaming, from the D column to the R, or vice versa. We here at The Daily Beast are defying the entertainment world and holding our own awards show in November, and we’ve got an award for pretty much every genre of candidate-bashing commercial.
This year’s award is shared between Mitch McConnell and Mitch McConnell. The first is “McConnell Working for Kentuckians,” an awkward compilation of the Senate minority leader in action—that is, turning toward the camera and meekly smiling. Cue amazing viral creations and a trend, #mcconnelling.
The second is a kind of metacommercial, a commentary on political ads that is surprisingly sharp and ultimately goofy, as McConnell ends up in a pack of bloodhounds, giggling that he supports this message.
If Wendy Davis rose to stardom in the Democratic Party with her filibuster of an anti-abortion bill on the floor of the Texas Senate, her run for governor of that state is her crashing back to earth. Looking to make up some ground in the race, she ran an ad targeting the perceived hypocrisy of her opponent, Greg Abbott. Unfortunately, his disability—he is wheelchair-bound—was also in her crosshairs.
This one, attacking Georgia Democrat John Barrow, is probably touching on a real issue. You’ll hear something about frivolous spending and Washington and John Barrow. But if you’re like us, you’ll probably spend most of the clip wondering if this person realizes there’s a monkey on her shoulder. On TV. “Outrageous” is an apt title.
The Christopher Knight Award for Worst Production Value
If you delve down into our fair nation’s more parochial races, you’re bound to find some ads that look like they were shot on a flip phone with graphics out of Microsoft Paint. This year’s winner comes from the comparative big time—it’s an attack ad from Michigan’s Republican Party on U.S. Rep. Gary Peters. As bad as the animation of a shark vomiting up money is, the “Loan Sharknado” theme deserves the highest praise.
Some say a great politician is a guy or gal you’d like to have a beer with. Based on this commercial, Tom Cotton is drinking alone. He seems like a nice enough guy, and Mark Pryor really has said some nasty things about him during the Arkansas Senate campaign, but come on, man!
The Willie Horton Award
Awarded to the ad that mongers fear most effectively through anecdotes about criminal activity, the 2014 Horton Award goes to Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska. Though it forgoes the subtle racism of the 1988 Bush spot, it does blame Dan Sullivan, Begich’s opponent, for a clerical error made before he was attorney general. A runner-up for the next award in our list, to be sure.
This award is fought over tooth-and-nail each year by political consultants from sea to shining sea. This year’s winner comes from Florida Gov. Rick Scott and says 300,000 Floridians lost their health care under Obamacare, a law Scott’s opponent, Charlie Crist, supports. That is not exactly true, as the Miami Herald explains.
Most Brazenly False
Another widely coveted prize—the best actor or actress of our little show—is split this year between two ambitiously deceitful ads.
First there’s Republican Evan Jenkins, who is challenging Democrat Nick Rahall for his House seat. Jenkins claims Rahall voted for a bill to implement a carbon tax that caused West Virginians’ electricity bills to skyrocket, but no such tax was ever implemented. He also says Rahall made millions off that “coal-killing” legislation, which is patently false.
Sharing the prize is “Julie’s Story,” an ad from the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity. In the clip, Julie claims she lost her doctor and her premiums became unaffordable as a result of Obamacare. In reality, she found a plan that allowed her to keep her doctor, and her premiums were cut in half. Not a lot of nuance there.
The Lifetime Achievement Award
Some ads deserve a place in history. This one, which was also nominated for the Christopher Knight Award as well as Worst Adaptation of a Disney Song, is quite simply horrifying. Do not show it to your children: They will hate the movie Frozen, and you, forever. Thanks, Texas lieutenant governors race.