Accuracy in Media

Have the Republicans unleashed a racist commercial against Harold Ford? Or does the truth hurt? The humorous ad features the claim that Ford attended a Playboy party and ends with an actress winking and asking Harold to call her. Because the actress is white and Ford is black, the ad has been labeled racist. Commentators like Tim Russert suggest the hidden agenda was a sinister attempt, part of a Republican racist “southern strategy,” to raise the specter of inter-racial sexual relationships and drive whites away from the Ford candidacy. But there’s just one problem with all of this liberal huffing and puffing: there’s no doubt that Ford did attend a Playboy party after the Super Bowl.

The original source of the report was Mary Ann Akers, in the “Heard On The Hill” column in Roll Call (February 8, 2005). She said, “Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.) was spotted at the Playboy Super Bowl party in Jacksonville, Fla., after the New England Patriots’ big win Sunday night. . . . One Web site selling tickets to the event claimed: ‘The Playboy Superbowl Party has become famous for being packed with celebrities and Playmates alike . . . Oh, and it is also packed with Playmates in lingerie and body paint.’”

There’s no evidence that Ford struck up a relationship with any of the Playboy models he may have run into, but the ad was meant to be funny while making a serious point about Ford. He was at an event where scantily-clad women were featured attractions. How can a Democrat, a member of a political party that caters to feminists, defend that?

Would it have been accurate to depict the Playboy-type model in the ad as black? Anybody who takes a passing glance at Playboy knows that the vast majority of the “models”―the Playmates or Playboy Bunnies―are white. By chance, I was flipping through my cable channels the other night and came upon a show on the E! channel titled “The Girls Next Door,” featuring Playboy founder Hugh Hefner and his current crop of Playboy “girlfriends.” All of his girlfriends are white. A quick visit to the Playboy website finds no black models at all.

So an ad featuring a white and blonde Playboy-like floozy, saying, “I met Harold at the Playboy party,” is quite accurate, regardless of whether Ford is black or white. But desperate pro-Democratic Party liberal media figures want to find something despicable in a commercial that is based on a simple truth. It is apparent they are more concerned about the impact of the claim that Ford did attend a Playboy party than whether the characters in the ads are black or white. The ad packs a punch because Ford has been campaigning for votes in churches and emphasizing his “values,” including prayer and belief in God. The Republicans’ Fancyford.com website draws attention to the candidate’s contradictions.

But the Republicans also have something to answer for, because a check of Federal Election Commission records shows that Playboy executive Christie Hefner gave the GOP $500. The contribution to the National Republican Congressional Committee was recorded back on January 31, 2001. She made far more contributions to Democrats and the Democratic Party, amounting to thousands of dollars, and gave $1,000 personally to Ford. She also gave money to pro-abortion groups. But the GOP can’t in good conscience criticize Ford for attending a Playboy party when it previously accepted Playboy money.

The reason an association with Playboy is controversial is because of its obvious exploitation of women as sex objects. This doesn’t comport with the liberal image of respecting women for their brains, not their bodies.

Ford defender Don Imus, a shock jock known for insults and profanity, is outraged over the anti-Ford ad, insisting that the Playboy party didn’t feature naked women in Hugh Hefner’s hot tub and that it was comparable to going to Hooters. But Playboy is different than Hooters, which is not restricted to adults. In fact, some families go to Hooters restaurants for the food. You can find a Hooters at the Washington Redskins stadium, FedEx Field. The women who work at Hooters are attractive and highlight some of their physical attributes, but they are not naked or exposing themselves to the public.

Rather than be honest about attending the party, Ford has tried to change the subject. As noted by Richard Locker of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, “Ford has never disputed attending the party?” but his campaign aides “would not say whether he attended.” Clearly, Ford is now embarrassed by having rubbed elbows with the Playboy crowd.

On “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Ford tried a different tack, saying that “I have never been to the Playboy mansion.” The Playboy mansion is a more notorious place, known for sexual promiscuity and drug-taking. But nobody is accusing Ford of having sex or taking drugs at the Playboy party. Ford’s reference to not being at the mansion, rather than the party, was an example of what the GOP called his “fancy slick talk.” He’s trying to confuse the issue.

Ford’s opponent Bob Corker calls the anti-Ford Playboy ad “tacky” and wants it taken down. He has to say this because of the dark hints by Russert & Company that the commercial is a racist Republican plot to sink Ford’s candidacy. But the real tacky thing was going to the party in the first place and then misleading the voters about this fact. That’s the critical aspect of the story that our liberal media want to gloss over. Perhaps some of them were at the same party.

All that Ford has to do is admit he made a mistake in going to the party. Does he have the honesty and integrity to make such an admission? Yet, it doesn’t look like the media will insist that he come clean about his association with a company founded by what amounts to a dirty old man.




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