- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

In the wake of liberal anger over CBS’ decision to air a Focus on the Family piece during the Super Bowl, the TV network has announced that it will ease its restrictions on such advocacy adsand former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has joined the debate, criticizing feminist complaints as “ridiculous.”

Feminist and liberal groups had accused CBS of bias toward acceptable advocacy ads, citing its rejection of ads from the pro-gay United Church of Christ and Moveon.org. CBS said Tuesday it will accept other advocacy ads for the remaining commercial openings for the Feb. 7 game, provided that they are “responsibly produced.”

“We have for some time moderated our approach to advocacy submissions after it became apparent that our stance did not reflect public sentiment or industry norms,” spokesman Dana McClintock said. “In fact, most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time.”

The Focus on the Family ad that started the furor stars former University of Florida football star Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. The pro-life group’s spot is widely believed to involve the story of Pam’s difficult pregnancy while on a mission trip in the Philippines, in which doctors advised her to abort the future Heisman-winning quarterback but she refused. The Tebows are evangelical Christians and their famous son often speaks about his and the family’s religious faith.

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In a letter to CBS on Monday, the Women’s Media Center, a coalition of feminist groups, said Focus on the Family has “waged war on non-traditional families, tried its hand at race baiting during the 2008 election, and is now attempting to use the Super Bowl to further ramp up the vitriolic rhetoric surrounding reproductive rights.” The letter also attacked CBS for its history of “prohibiting advocacy ads it deems controversial.”

Erin Matson, action vice president for the National Organization for Women, told The Washington Times on Tuesday that abortion is an incredibly complex issue that cannot be condensed into a 30-second commercial and running the ad is not a smart thing to do for either viewpoint.

“I think one thing we can all agree on is that abortion rights is one of the most contentious issues in our society,” she said, adding that her group had no plans to buy a Super Bowl spot or specifically rebut the Tebows’ ad.

On her Facebook page Tuesday night, Mrs. Palin thanked the Tebows for their ad and said NOW “is looking at the pro-life issue backwards.”

The Tebows will “speak to the sanctity of life and the beautiful potential within every innocent child as Mrs. Tebow acknowledges her choice to give Tim life, despite less than ideal circumstances. Messages like this empower women! This speaks to the strength and commitment and nurturing spirit within women,” the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate wrote.

Focus on the Family spokesman, Gary Schneeberger, said he is happy with the language CBS has used in its updated policy specifically the words “responsibly produced,” but add that he is surprised at the outrage over the content of the commercial considering the fact that the ad has not been seen.

“I think the fact that CBS has recognized that you can be an organization that stands on principle but at the same time can produce and ad that is responsibly produced,” Mr. Schneeberger said.

“To comment on an ad that you haven’t seen seems difficult to do,” he said.