CBS Condemns Anti-Obama Ad as Proof Campaign Getting 'Nastier'

Anti-Barack Obama ads from Hillary Clinton's campaign didn't concern CBS, but on Wednesday night anchor Harry Smith denounced an accurate ad from the North Carolina Republican Party, pointing out Obama's closeness to Reverend Jeremiah Wright and showing the very same “God Damn America” soundbite the CBS Evening News ran a month earlier, as proof the campaign is getting “nastier.”

Smith teased his top story: “The first day of the rest of the campaign, and if you think it can't get nastier.” Viewers than saw a clip of the ad, “He's just too extreme for North Carolina,” before Smith finished his sentence: “Republicans roll out a new attack ad as the battleground shifts.”

After playing clips of the ad -- the narrator saying “For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor,” Wright yelling “Not God Bless America, God [bleep] America!” and the narrator declaring “He's just too extreme for North Carolina" -- Reynolds focused on how “John McCain disowned it.” Reynolds used the ad as another chance to resurrect Bill Cunningham (with a “Barack Hussein Obama” clip) as Reynolds rued: “McCain has been down this path before, repeatedly apologizing or rejecting statements from supporters who have questioned Obama's patriotism.” McCain's requests, Reynolds lamented, “have not been effective” since the North Carolina Republicans “put their ad on the Internet.” Reynolds then highlighted how “Obama said McCain could do more to stop it.”

Back in March, the CBS Evening News only aired one Wright clip. The March 18 edition aired Wright's “God Damn America,” the very one CBS ran Wednesday night in its story on the “nasty” ad.

Cunningham called Obama “Barack Hussein Obama" at McCain rally in late February and nearly a month later, on the March 20 CBS Evening News, Reynolds reminded viewers of it as he described YouTube video, which interspersed clips of Obama and Wright, as "one of several episodes in which aides, supporters, or surrogates have crossed the line and forced McCain to apologize or take action."

ABC's World News didn't mention the ad Wednesday night, but Andrea Mitchell raised it on the NBC Nightly News, though sans any direct condemnation. Picking up toward the end of the story:

ANDREA MITCHELL: Obama was also under attack today from Republicans in North Carolina where the state GOP prepared an ad criticizing his connection to his former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.

AD NARRATOR: He's just too extreme for North Carolina.

MITCHELL: John McCain immediately demanded that the North Carolina Republicans kill the ad.

JOHN McCAIN: We called and asked them not to run that message. It's not the message of the Republican Party.

MITCHELL: But McCain did not hesitate to call Obama an elitist for his remarks about people feeling bitter and clinging to their guns and faith.

McCAIN: I think those comments or elitist.

MITCHELL: The exit polls in Pennsylvania also showed that race could be a factor for Obama if he were the nominee. 16 percent of white voters said that race mattered to them and only 54 percent of those voters said that they would support Obama in a general election.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript for the story on the Wednesday, April 23 CBS Evening News:
HARRY SMITH, IN OPENING TEASER: The first day of the rest of the campaign, and if you think it can't get nastier-

FEMALE NARRATOR IN AD: He's just too extreme for North Carolina.

SMITH: -Republicans roll out a new attack ad as the battleground shifts.

BARACK OBAMA: Now it's up to you, Indiana.

HILLARY CLINTON: The tide is turning.

...

SMITH: Good evening. Katie is on assignment. Hillary Clinton's 10-point win in the Pennsylvania primary has given her campaign new life and new money. Clinton picked up 82 delegates to Barack Obama's 73. But Obama still has a 130-delegate lead nationally. So now it's on to Indiana and North Carolina. Both candidates vowing to campaign till the last vote is counted. But Republicans in North Carolina have made it clear who they think the nominee will be, and they've started taking aim today. Dean Reynolds is with the Obama campaign. Dean?

REYNOLDS: Good evening, Harry. Well, those Republicans gave Barack Obama just a little taste of what they have in store for him if he leads the Democrats into the fall election.

FEMALE NARRATOR IN AD: For 20 years, Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor.

REVEREND JEREMIAH WRIGHT: Not God Bless America, God [bleep] America!

REYNOLDS: An advertisement from the Republican Party of North Carolina.

FEMALE NARRATOR IN AD: He's just too extreme for North Carolina.

REYNOLDS: For his part, Republican John McCain disowned it.

JOHN MCCAIN CLIP #1: It's not the message of the Republican Party. It's not the message of my campaign.

MCCAIN CLIP #2: I sent them an e-mail again today asking them to pull down that ad.

REYNOLDS: But McCain has been down this path before, repeatedly apologizing or rejecting statements from supporters who have questioned Obama's patriotism.

BILL CUNNINGHAM, CONSERVATIVE TALK RADIO HOST: Barack Hussein Obama.

REYNOLDS: But McCain's requests to stop such attacks have not been effective. In North Carolina, the Republicans put their ad on the Internet and say they're going to broadcast it as well. Today Obama said McCain could do more to stop it.

BARACK OBAMA: And I assume that if John McCain thinks that it's an inappropriate ad, that he can get them to pull it down since he's their nominee and standard bearer.

REYNOLDS: The Illinois Senator was stumping in Indiana where polls say he's overtaken Hillary Clinton. While she's defeated him in big states such as Pennsylvania and California, Obama says he runs better against McCain in those states than she does. Besides-

OBAMA: If at the end, we end up having won twice as many states and having the most votes, then we should end up being the nominee.

REYNOLDS: His aides question Clinton's strategy.

DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: If your only hope is that some disaster will be beset Senator Obama and maybe one that you inflict, then that's damaging to the party.

REYNOLDS: For Obama, one of the positives of this long campaign is the chance to introduce himself directly to more and more voters. Still, he said today the sooner this nomination battle is over, the better.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center