- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2002

Did politicians respect the sanctity of September 11 and stay off the airwaves? Well, yes and no.
For the most part, congressional and gubernatorial candidates kept their combative, lugubrious or sentimental messages off television in deference to the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
In fact, only 61 political commercials ran nationwide, according to the University of Wisconsin, which tracked them in a study released Friday.
"With campaigns in full swing and candidates trying to hit the ground running after the September 10 primaries, this is as close to silence as we could expect to see at this point in the cycle," said Ken Goldstein, who directed the project.
That reticence was not the case a week earlier, when 9,586 political spots were broadcast on Sept. 4. On September 11, 2000, the nation was treated to 7,000 spots.
The few ads shown on the anniversary Wednesday came from Democrats.
A third of them were sponsored by John Wolfe, who is running for Congress in Tennessee's heavily Republican 3rd Congressional District. Mr. Wolfe especially produced the spots for September 11; they feature him in front of a huge American flag expressing condolences to victims and urging "support of the Constitution."
Mr. Wolfe has been one of the few to try to capitalize on the attacks. The study found that fewer than 1 percent of current campaign commercials alluded to September 11; fewer than 4 percent have mentioned anything even related to terrorism. Only 1 percent mentioned a candidate's "patriotism" or featured firefighters or police officers.
Commercials from Rep. Mike Ross, Arkansas Democrat, also used the September 11 theme, featuring the candidate describing his personal memories of the attacks and their effect on the nation. In her ads, Sen. Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat, used the theme to illustrate her take on defense and veterans issues.
Clayton Hee, who is running for lieutenant governor of Hawaii, sponsored 10 campaign spots on Wednesday; California Gov. Gray Davis offered two.
In its ads, the North Carolina Democratic Party attacked Republican Senate candidate Elizabeth Dole, claiming she did not "pause" her campaign to honor the anniversary and linking her with Enron's CEO Kenneth L. Lay.
Were these televised intrusions on the anniversary intended strategies or a mere gaffe by some local TV scheduler?
"Other than Wolfe's piece, most of the other ads had been running in past weeks, and my belief is that the airings were clearly mistakes by the television stations and not deliberate campaigning by candidates on September 11," said Mr. Goldstein, the study director.
Whatever the motivation, the study found that "flag-waving in campaigns is still alive and well."
More than 25 percent of all the political commercials this year featured Old Glory, with some more attuned to the Stars and Stripes than others. The study found the U.S. flag featured in 32 percent of all Senate ads, 31 percent of House ads and 23 percent of gubernatorial ads.
The study crowned Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, king of "the flag-waving trend," citing his July Fourth campaign commercial, which featured him reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
September 11 may have taken the edge from campaign mud-slinging, however.
"Of note is the fact that no ads this year have characterized opposing candidates as unpatriotic," the study observed.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide