Candidates, Parties Urged to Clean Up Campaign Ads

On October 25th, 2006 – NAACP leaders called for political candidates, affiliated action committees and supporters to put an end to racially charged political attack ads in campaign advertising and focus on solutions to everyday issues facing African Americans and other racial and ethnic minority Americans.

For example, in Tennessee's U.S. Senate race, the Republican National Senatorial Committee launched racially implicit attack ads against Congressman Harold Ford to cast impunity on his character. The ad uses a scantily-clad white female actress to imply that the African American senate candidate is more interested in partying than addressing concerns of the State of Tennessee. This type of racially charged political propaganda can be compared to the treatment of African American elected officials in D.W. Griffin's 1915 film "Birth of a Nation," asserts NAACP President & CEO Bruce S. Gordon.

"Simply put—racially charged, negative attack ads have no place in a democratic society and should be pulled from the airwaves immediately," said Gordon. "They do nothing to further public discourse or to develop useful policy on matters of importance to this nation."

"I urge candidates to take the moral high ground," Gordon added. "Political ads should speak to issues that truly resonate with the American voter—quality education, accessible, affordable health care, sustainable jobs and wages and living a secure life free of terrorist or criminal threat."

The NAACP continues to monitor campaign ads across the country, many of which contain disturbing images and innuendos aimed at racial and ethnic minority candidates and play on pre-existing racial stereotypes.

Candidates and officials in both major political parties have previously pledged to move away from racially exploitive attack ads. As well they should.

A 1999 study conducted for the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership (SIPL) at the University of Virginia found that voters reward campaign practices perceived as fair, and punish candidates for engaging in unfair attacks. According to the study, candidates will always do best by making a fair charge and by staying above the fray. An exchange of unfair charges makes it more likely that voters will stay home on Election Day.

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