CNN hosted Republican advertising consultant Alex Castellanos -- creator of racially charged advertisements for former Sen. Jesse Helms -- who echoed the myth invoked by the Bush administration that there was a link between the September 11 attacks, perpetrated by Al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In fact, the 9-11 Commission report stated: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
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During coverage of returns from the Indiana and North Carolina Democratic primaries on May 6, CNN hosted Republican advertising consultant Alex Castellanos -- creator of the racially charged "Hands" advertisement -- who echoed the myth invoked by the Bush administration that there was a link between the September 11 attacks, perpetrated by Al Qaeda, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. During Castellanos' appearance, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, referring to the war in Iraq, asked of a potential Barack Obama presidency: "Will he take us to war on a lie and see all of our troops die on a lie? And not ask for forgiveness?" Castellanos then interjected: "The planes crashing into a building. ... Planes crashed into a building. It was not a lie." In fact, the 9-11 Commission report stated: "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States" and that "contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda ... do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship."
As Media Matters has noted, Castellanos' "Hands" advertisement, which ran on behalf of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) during his 1990 re-election campaign against Harvey Gantt, the first black mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, featured a pair of white hands crumpling a job-rejection letter while a narrator said:
You needed that job. You were the best qualified. But they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair? Harvey Gantt says it is. Gantt supports Ted Kennedy's racial quota law that makes the color of your skin more important than your qualifications. You'll vote on this issue next Tuesday. For racial quotas: Harvey Gantt. Against racial quotas: Jesse Helms.
Castellanos produced another racially charged ad that Helms' campaign ran in the weeks before the election. According to a November 2, 1990, New York Times report, the ad claimed that "Mr. Gantt obtained a television license in 1985 under a program to assist minority businessmen and that he and his partners soon sold it." Gantt denied that race had anything to do with his obtaining the license, a claim reportedly backed up by an FCC official. The Washington Post reported on November 4, 1990: "In fact, the racial preference program played no part in the FCC's final decision [to award Gantt's group the license], according to William Johnson, deputy administrator of the mass media division. Johnson said all qualified competitors to the Gantt group dropped out, and minority participation is a factor only in competitive decisions.
From the 8 p.m. ET hour of CNN's May 6 Democratic presidential primary coverage:
CASTELLANOS: He was a much broader-reaching candidate when this process started. And now, I think it's fair to ask: Would the people that you see in Barack Obama's life be the same people you see in his administration? You know, would you see Bill Ayers? Would there be people like Reverend Wright? The answer may be no, by the way.
BRAZILE: Oh, Alex, now, you know, that is so small.
CASTELLANOS: But he has raised -- no.
BRAZILE: That is so small, Alex.
CASTELLANOS: No, no, no. But I'm saying -- no, I'm saying that --
BRAZILE: That is so small.
CASTELLANOS: Whether -- the answer may be no. But the question is certainly out there for a lot of voters.
CAMPELL BROWN (anchor): I think in fairness --
BRAZILE: Will he take us to war on a lie and see all of our troops die on a lie? And not ask for forgiveness? Come on.
CASTELLANOS: The planes crashing into a building. The planes crashing into a building.
BRAZILE: Come on, Alex, don't do that.
CASTELLANOS: Planes crashed into a building. It was not a lie.
BRAZILE: No, you all want to make it superficial conversation, not a real substantive conversation. Let's make it about substance and not do all of this.
BROWN: OK, guys.
CASTELLANOS: Do you think --
BROWN: Hey, you know what, Donna, let me --
BRAZILE: That's beneath you, Alex. You know better.