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GOP Hopeful's Ads Focus on Lewinsky


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Key Stories on Advertising in the '98 Campaigns

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 20, 1998; Page A11

The first Republican campaign ad seeking to capitalize on the Monica S. Lewinsky investigation and other White House scandals has hit the airwaves.

Dan Page, a North Carolina state senator trying to unseat Rep. Bobby R. Etheridge (D), is using the commercial to tie his opponent to President Clinton and the array of allegations against the administration.

"Scandal after scandal, day after day," the ad says, which shows a Newsweek cover featuring Clinton and Lewinsky. "And who stands with Bill Clinton even now? Liberal Bob Etheridge. Etheridge gives Bill Clinton a standing ovation. Applauding Clinton's values, not ours. . . . Dan Page believes character counts and morality matters."

Mike Davis, a spokesman for Etheridge, said the commercial "is not going to work. This ad just doesn't survive the smell test. For people who know Bob Etheridge, his record, his beliefs, his value system of family, church and community, it just doesn't wash." Davis said Etheridge has supported the president on many issues, but fought him bitterly on tobacco legislation.

Robert Jones, Page's communications director, said that "our supporters are proud of us" about the ad, which "has re-energized our campaign."

Rex Elsase, a consultant for Page, said the ad shows that "Bob Etheridge has been a Clinton enabler and has turned his back on lying and stonewalling on the part of the president. People are thirsting for moral leadership."

After Clinton acknowledged an improper relationship with Lewinsky Monday, Etheridge said that "what he did was wrong," but that he was glad the president "faced the American people and told the truth."

The Page ad has one problem. It features a series of banner headlines ("They Didn't Ask, He Didn't Tell," "Clinton story never adds up to whole truth," "Clintons seen 'deeply' embroiled in scandals") crudely superimposed under the logos of USA Today, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, as if they were the lead stories. The headlines are not in the newspapers' typefaces, and two USA Today headlines were taken from letters to the editor.

Elsase denied that this was misleading, saying, "We are representing exactly what the newspapers have printed."

Clifford May, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said, "We're not encouraging anybody to run ads like this. Quite the contrary. This is not the time for us to be taking partisan benefit from this."

Walt Massey, the GOP nominee challenging Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), also is taking aim at Clinton. Massey has put out a flyer called "SCANDAL!" that has an unflattering picture of the president's face on the cover. Inside are pictures of Lewinsky, Kathleen E. Willey, Webster L. Hubbell, Susan McDougal and Johnny Chung, all of whom have figured in allegations against Clinton.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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