On Tuesday, freelance journalist Charles C. Johnson posted a fear mongering radio advertisement on YouTube endorsing Senator Thad Cochran, which clearly targeted black Mississippians who did not vote in the Democrat primary in early June.
The female narrator warns that the Tea Party seeks to disenfranchise black voters, wants to cut "all" government programs, and implies that they aim to re-segregate Mississippi. How far is too far, when it comes to political advertisements? Where is the line between politics and slander?
The ad, transcribed here, starts with an unsubstantiated claim that the Tea Party is telling people that if they vote in the Republican primary, they cannot vote in the general election in November. The narrator says, "If someone tells you that by voting today, you cannot vote in November - it’s just a Tea Party, bald-faced lie."
The woman then goes on to tell listeners that if they do not vote in the GOP primary, the Tea Party will "take away all...government programs." She warns, "Mississippi will never be the same."
The narrator laments,
"By not voting, you are saying 'take away all of my government programs, such as food stamps, early breakfast and lunch programs, millions of dollars to our black universities'…everything we and our families depend on that comes from Washington will be cut."
Making a thinly veiled reference to segregation, the radio advertisement continues to warn that if Democrats do not "spend five dollars on gas to vote" in the Republican primary, "the Tea Party [will]...set us back to the good old bad days..." The short commercial encourages listeners to "Vote against the Tea Party, vote Thad Cochran." Finally, the narrator says, "Remember, if you didn't vote in the June third [Democrat] primary, you can vote today."
As reported at WDAM, a local news source in Mississippi, Jones County Assistant District Attorney J.Ronald Parrish stated that according to Mississippi statute, “If you're a member of one political party and you intend to support that candidate in that political party," he explained, "it is against the law for you to vote in the other political party’s primary.”
Is it illegal to encourage people to break the law through a radio advertisement?
A particularly offensive robocall, also posted by Johnson, again urges Democratic voters to vote for Thad Cochran and bashes the Tea Party for “their disrespectful treatment of the first African American president…” The robocall supporting an establishment Republican candidate continued,
“[I]f we do nothing, Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel wins and causes even more problems for President Obama.”
Many on Twitter have denounced the divisive tactics used by the Cochran campaign, as reported at theBlaze. Even former Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a supporter of Cochran, questioned the strategy. On MSNBC Tuesday, Barbour said, “If Senator Cochran is going to court Democrats to save his seat, it is a clear indication that he has abandoned conservatives in the state of Mississippi.”
Click on the video to hear the radio commercial.