Virginia Democrat Henry E. Howell's campaign said today it is withdrawing from Washington television stations a controversial commercial in which Rep. Peter W. Rodino (D-N.J.) suggests Watergate-like tactics are being used against Howell in his race for governor.
Republicans here and in Washington charged that Rodino pressured the Howell campaign to stop the ad because, according to the Republicans, it was filmed in a Capitol broadcast studio. The studio supposedly is reserved for nonpolitical interviews of House members, the Republicans said.
The ads were the most controversial in a series prepared by Atlanta advertising man Gerald Rafshoon, and had triggered floods of angry telephone calls to Republican headquarters in Northern Virginia, according to a spokesman for John N. Dalton, Howell's opponent.
Rodino's office had no immediate comment on the Republican charges and in Norfolk, William Rosendahl, Howell's campaign manager, said he had no idea where the commercial was filmed.
"It's a good, clean one," Rosendahl said, adding that he made the decision to broadcast the commercial for four days only and only on Washington stations.
"We want to let northern Virginians appreciate the kind of campaign" that Dalton supporters have run against Howell, Rosendahl said. He said Rodino's comments in the commercial are directed at "that vicious stuff" that Howell has claimed distorted his positions on various issues.
Asked if Republicans were angered by the ads, William A. Royall, Dalton's campaign manager snapped: "Damn right: the idea of using a New Jersey congressman to tell us we've got problems in Virginia."