A week after echoing the myth invoked by the Bush administration that there was a link between the September 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Republican media consultant and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos stated that if Sen. Hillary Clinton were Sen. Barack Obama's vice president, "I think Barack Obama would have to hire a food tester."
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One week after falsely linking the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Iraq, Republican media consultant and CNN political contributor Alex Castellanos said on the May 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room that if Sen. Hillary Clinton were Sen. Barack Obama's vice president, "I think Barack Obama would have to hire a food tester ... because these are the most politically ambitious people on the scene in America today." After Castellanos said "food tester," CNN commentator Jack Cafferty said, "Oh, yeah."
On-screen text identified Castellanos as a "GOP Media Consultant," but The New York Times reported on May 12 that he is "now an outside adviser to [Sen. John] McCain's advertising team." Blitzer introduced him only as "Alex Castellanos" and, returning from live coverage of an Obama speech, as "Alex." CNN transcripts of the appearance identify Castellanos as a "CNN political contributor." At no point was his reported link to the McCain campaign noted. By contrast, Blitzer noted that Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons is "a major Obama supporter."
As Media Matters for America noted, during coverage of returns from the Indiana and North Carolina Democratic primaries on May 6, Castellanos echoed the claim furthered by the Bush administration that there was a link between the 9-11 attacks and Saddam Hussein's Iraq. During Castellanos' appearance, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, referring to the war in Iraq, asked of a potential 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."
As Media Matters has also noted, Castellanos created the racially charged "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. The ad featured a pair of white hands crumpling a job-rejection letter while a narrator says:
You needed that job. And 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 a Federal Communications Commission 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 May 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
BLITZER: Let's take a look ahead to what we're about to hear from Barack Obama.
Joining us now for some analysis: our own Jack Cafferty, and Gloria Borger, and Alex Castellanos.
We're looking at these live pictures. The senator in Missouri, Claire McCaskill, a major Barack Obama supporter, Jack, is introducing Barack Obama. He's made a very important decision tonight. He's not in one of these states that still has primaries. He's already moving on. He's in Missouri, a state he narrowly, narrowly carried in the state's primary earlier in the year, which he would desperately need to carry if in fact he goes against John McCain in the fall.
So, he's made a decision. He's going to be speaking tonight, and he's also going to be speaking before the results in West Virginia come in. In fact, she's just finished introducing him, and he's about to start speaking. You can see the people standing up to hear him -- hear his remarks. He's got a lot of ardent supporters there. And it's significant that he's doing this before the results come in.
Let's listen in to Barack Obama as he speaks. These will be his only public -- this will be his only public appearance tonight.
BLITZER: You know, but, Alex, that same poll showed that McCain is pretty competitive with both Obama and Clinton in a hypothetical match-up, at least right now.
BLITZER: I'm going to walk over to our other analysts and get their thoughts on what we've just heard. Jamal Simmons, a major Obama supporter, if I must say. What do you -- what do you think about this strategy of forgetting about West Virginia -- at least on this night -- Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, the other remaining states, but already leapfrogging over to Missouri?
BORGER: And I think, you know, going back to this -- to this marriage of convenience that we all seem to want, you know -- one thing I think of when I think of Hillary Clinton as vice president is don't forget, she spent eight years observing the vice presidency very closely. Some in that White House, particularly those who worked for Al Gore, thought she was undermining the vice president for much of that time.
BORGER: She has a very interesting view of the vice presidency, because she did have a big chunk of his job, some would say. She might not think a lot of the vice presidency. You know, I'm not sure that -- that it's --
BLITZER: Alex, go ahead.
BORGER: I think she would take it, but --
CASTELLANOS: And I think Barack Obama would have to hire a food tester --
CAFFERTY: Oh, yeah.
CASTELLANOS: -- because these are the most politically ambitious people on the scene in America today. And hey, look -- it cancels out. It's matter and anti-matter. His message is change. And I think as Jack said, to pick as a vice presidential running mate someone who represents experience and the status quo, to the degree she does, I think would shut him down.
BORGER: And McCain has to go for change, right? And youth and inexperience, right?
CAFFERTY: And plus, he hasn't asked her yet.