As you may have seen in recent news, Alan Grayson, the Democratic representative for the state of Florida, has debuted a political commercial that implies his opponent, Daniel Webster, is a member of the Taliban. In the clip, Webster is portrayed as a sexist, controlling and misogynistic conservative who claims wives should “submit themselves to their husbands.” While Mr. Webster’s quote is taken directly out of a speech he delivered, Grayson pushed the code of Public Relations ethics by publicizing the small excerpt completely out of context.
In what Webster had intended the public to hear, he explained how he valued the unification of a family and making moral decisions, which may not necessarily be what is said in the Bible. He tells husbands to move past meaningless sexism and see their wives as equals. In the actual speech (clip available here), Webster said:
“So, write a journal. Second, find a verse. I have a verse for my wife, I have verses for my wife. Don’t pick the ones that say, ‘She should submit to me.’ That’s in the Bible, but pick the ones that you’re supposed to do. So instead, ‘love your wife, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it’ as opposed to ‘wives submit to your own husbands.’ She can pray that, if she wants to, but don’t you pray it.”
Any informed voter would have taken the time to cross reference the three-second phrase used in Grayson’s ad with Webster’s original speech. The speech had intended to show Webster’s family values, but instead it gained him the unjustified nickname of “Taliban Dan.” The creators of this commercial believed they could tear down their opponent by misrepresenting him and trying to persuade the public he would control the senate in the same way he “controls” his wife.
One would like to believe all voters take the time to research the validity of each campaign before casting their votes. However, this is not always the case. For the sake of public affairs, and specifically the upcoming Florida election, we are lucky this commercial has received the attention it has. Had this commercial not made the nightly news, many voters may have believed what they were told and cast a vote based off of ignorance and misguidance.
As a Public Relations fan, do you think the creators of this commercial were successful? Do you think they have done well by Grayon, or will the backlash from the commercial negatively affect his campaign?
Perhaps this article touches upon a commonly asked question in the world of PR: Is it better to get negative press than to get no press at all?