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On the October 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, correspondent Mary Snow uncritically reported a claim in an advertisement by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) that Democrat Michael Arcuri, who is running to replace retiring Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), "billed taxpayers for a call to a phone sex hotline." Snow then stated, "Arcuri says the number was on a phone bill because an aide called a sex hotline by mistake that had similar digits to a government office," but she failed to point out that Arcuri has released records that back up his claim and that Arcuri's Republican opponent has denounced the ad.
- Arcuri has released phone logs "showing that a number with the same last seven digits, but a 518 area code, was made one minute after the 800 number" to the phone sex hotline was called and that the "518-457-8462 number goes to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services." The record of both calls reportedly appeared on a hotel bill.
- Four television stations in the targeted media market have refused to run the ad, including WUTR, which cited the fact that "their verification didn't support the position that they could make this claim" against Arcuri.
- Republican Raymond Meier, Arcuri's opponent, called the ad "way over the line" and demanded that "it be dropped."
From the October 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
SNOW: It's independent political groups, say observers, that go where candidates don't want to tread, in advertisements that are seemingly negative each season.
EVAN TRACEY (TNS Media Intelligence): These groups can really engage on issues that sometimes the campaigns just have to stay away from because they're too hot to handle.
SNOW: Case in point, this ad in New York's 24th District.
WOMAN [video clip]: Hi, sexy. You've reached the live one-on-one fantasy line.
SNOW: The National Republican Congressional Committee stands by its $10,000 ad that targets Democrat Michael Arcuri, claiming he billed taxpayers for a call to a phone-sex hotline.
Arcuri says the number was on a phone bill because an aide called a sex hot line by mistake that had similar digits to a government office. Arcuri's office says he hasn't ruled out filing a lawsuit over the ad, and his Republican challenger, Raymond Meier, has distanced himself from the NRCC and the ad.
With such loud protests over these ads, why are thousands of dollars being spent to make them?
TRACEY: If they didn't work, campaigns wouldn't use them. This is the time that every campaign that's trailing or every campaign that's trying to put an opponent away will generally try and get one ad out there on the air that they think is the silver bullet.