May 17th, 2012
01:45 PM ET
3 years ago

Billionaire denounces potential Rev. Wright ad

(CNN) – Billionaire Joe Ricketts on Thursday rejected an ad proposal by high-profile Republicans billed as a provocative campaign against President Barack Obama that would run around the Democratic National Convention.

Earlier Thursday The New York Times reported Republican strategists were working with billionaire Ricketts to run commercials "linking Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his former spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr."

The president of the super PAC supported by Ricketts said he neither authored nor funded the proposal and that it was one of "several submitted" to the PAC by third-party vendors.

"It reflects an approach to politics that Mr. Ricketts rejects and it was never a plan to be accepted but only a suggestion for a direction to take," Brian Baker said in a statement. "Mr. Ricketts intends to work hard to help elect a President this fall who shares his commitment to economic responsibility, but his efforts are and will continue to be focused entirely on questions of fiscal policy, not attacks that seek to divide us socially or culturally."

Strategic Perception, the ad company run by Fred Davis that was behind the Wright pitch, released a statement saying "The Ricketts family never approved it, and nothing has happened on it since the presentation."

Mitt Romney on Thursday renounced the potential ad strategy against President Barack Obama that would invoke Wright, in an interview and later at a press availability.

"I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign," Romney told members of the press after a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Florida. "I hope that our campaigns can respectfully be about the future and about issues and about a vision for America."

Romney noted his campaign would soon be out with a positive television advertisement, saying it would contrast with recent attacks from Obama's team hitting Romney for his tenure as chief executive of Bain Capital.

"That will come up, I think, in a couple of days," Romney said of the ad. "It will be a positive ad about the things I would do if I were president. It's contrasting with the president's ad, which came out, again, as a character assassination ad. My own view is that, you know, we can talk about a lot of things, but the centerpiece of his campaign is quite clearly character assassination, and the centerpiece of my campaign is going to be my vision to get America working again and provide a better vision for our kids."

Asked what "character assassination" meant, Romney pointed to the Bain attacks, saying they were an attempt to "characterize me in a way that isn't accurate."

Romney's remarks followed his campaign's response, which included a call for election civility, after which Obama's campaign accused Romney of "reacting tepidly to the information."

Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said "Unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same."

"It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so,'" Rhoades added.

Obama's 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina said the reaction from Team Romney represented the Republican Party's shift to the right and toward "a hate-filled, divisive campaign."

"Once again, Governor Romney has fallen short of the standard that John McCain set, reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership in standing up to the very extreme wing of his own party," Messina said in a statement.

When asked about the Times report Thursday morning aboard his campaign plane, Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, said he had not yet read the papers.

Romney raised Rev. Wright earlier in the 2012 campaign cycle, when he questioned Obama's "philosophical leanings."

"I'm not sure which is worse, him listening to Rev. Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation," Romney said on Sean Hannity's radio show in February.

When asked about the interview during the press conference Thursday, Romney said he didn't recall exactly what he said, but added "I stand by what I said, whatever it was."

Meanwhile, Democratic progressive organizations are organizing an "emergency conference call" to discuss the action in response to Ricketts, based on the Times report, according to a Democratic source.

When asked about the reports on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said it proves "guys like that so misunderstand the state of the nation.

"The public is so far beyond that," Biden said during a stop in Washington, Pennsylvania. "I mean look, there are certain things that are sorta so morally clear and straight and straight-lined about it. You almost don't even wanna comment."

Wright made headlines during the 2008 campaign for his controversial race-related comments, comments then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain did not capitalize on as part of his White House bid.

Obama was forced to distance himself from his former reverend.

Strategists told the Times, the plan would "do exactly what John McCain would not let us do."

On Thursday, Steve Schmidt, McCain's 2008 campaign manager, told CNN the campaign decided not to use Obama's connection to Wright because "It wasn't useful. It would have backfired. And more importantly, it's wrong."

A current spokesman for McCain said the senior senator stands by his 2008 decision to leave Wright out of the campaign.

"Senator McCain is very proud of the campaign he ran in 2008," McCain communications director Brian Rogers told CNN. "He stands by the decisions he made during that race and would make them again today if he had it to do over."

In response to the news Bill Burton of Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supportive of the president, said there is an "ocean of Republican money coming right at President Obama - some of it dedicated to abject slime."

"Now is the time to fight back," he added in an email to supporters.

Ricketts, the founder and former CEO of TD Ameritrade whose family owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, has been particularly active in politics over the last few years. He, along with The Ending Spending Action Fund, the super PAC he supports, have backed candidates and causes dedicated to ending wasteful spending and special-interest earmarks. Recently, his PAC donated $250,000 to Deb Fischer's race for the GOP Senate nomination in Nebraska. Fischer captured the nomination in a come-from-behind victory.

– CNN's Jessica Yellin, Jim Acosta and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • Jeremiah Wright • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (368 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Spineless Mitt strikes again. He is no leader.

    May 17, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Anonymous - Spineless Mitt strikes again. He is no leader.
    ===========================================
    Didn't bother to read the article did you?

    May 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. Al-NY,NY

    Sure Flippy...let your minions resurrect THAT issue AGAIN. It didn't work for McCain/Failin Palin and it won't work now. Can you please come up with something original???

    May 17, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. REG in AZ

    If the American voter isn't sick and tired of being insultingly considered as "pawns" in the very wealthy's (1%) game of control as they spend mega-millions to con the people and manipulate public opinion, then we could be in trouble. The likes of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Grover Norquist, SuperPacs and others have proven with past actions and obnoxiousness that they have no conscience, no concern for other than the interests of the very wealthy and that they will say / do whatever they think will excite and sway people, without any regard for the truth or what it will cost the people. If the voters don't recognize the deception, reject the propaganda and firmly reject their "puppet" candidates, then we are just apt to be returned to "more of the same", Bush-Cheney style, that cost this country so much.

    May 17, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  5. Tired of republican lies

    @ Al-NY,NY
    Can't you see that the gnobp have no original ideas...All they could do is rehash things that have been beaten down long ago.....They don't even have ideas as to how they can do anything for the country, except the same old same old that brought this country down.

    May 17, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  6. Rudy NYC

    "It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so."
    --------------
    Refuting lies and negative ads is not negative campaigning. It's called setting the record straight.

    If a group of billionaires wants to run a series of negative ads against Pres. Obama, I say let them do it, and go ahead an play the race card. It will only backfire and work against them. Even the Romney Campaign is acting like they know that it will most likely backfire.

    May 17, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  7. Jules

    Sure – and then Romney says he can't control what the super pacs do. Only thing is – a Wright ad will generate the support from the black community that is a bit divided by his stance on marriage equality and also a wright ad by the Romney super pacs will make Mormonism an ad by the Obama super pacs and President Obama will say just what Romney says -I can't control what the super pacs do. tsk tsk tsk

    May 17, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. DJ

    Please take time to read the article...Romney wants no part of this. Just because a person may be Democrat or Republican does not mean everyone is of the same mind set of another. At least Mitt Romney is speaking up about this to get it under control. This is a sign of a true leader.

    May 17, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  9. Bill in Florida

    In spring 2008, Faux News ran Wright's "God damn America!" clips nearly non-stop for days and it didn't affect the election of Senator Obama that November. So I don't see how rerunning Wrights' comments now will affect President Obama's chances this November.

    So I guess they're roll out Sarah Palin to again talk about the President "palling around" with "domestic terrorist" William Ayers next ...

    May 17, 2012 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  10. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Unlike the Obama campaign, Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy, and we encourage everyone else to do the same," Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoads said in a statement. "It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so."

    You know, CNN. At some point this becomes so ridiculous only the really foolish can appreciate the stupidity of TeamRomney issuing such ignorant statements. Surely TeamRomney isn't suggesting that President Obama is behind this Jeremiah Wright campaign? The utter incompetence TeamRomney displays deserves contempt, not gratitude.

    May 17, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  11. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    Rev. Wright says a close Obama friend offered Rev. Wright $150,000 in 2008 to stop speaking until the election was over. The offer was communicated through one of Wright's friends. Ed Klein has a 3 hour interview with Rev. Wright on tape where this is discussed. Quite fascinating Obama and his lackeys felt the need to bribe him into silence. What is he hiding?

    May 17, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  12. kakaraka

    Remember Nuggett and his recent statement? It's a fair game about this then. Team Obama will link Romney to him as he espouse his view by failing to denounce him but President Obama in the other hand doesn't espouse Wright's view and denounced him.

    May 17, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  13. Donkey Party

    Funny how the cowardly GOPers always play the "victim". All the Obama campaign has used "against" Romney is comments and positions Romney has said or taken. Everything that comes out of Wlliard Romney's mouth is a lie.

    May 17, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  14. Charlou

    Why go back to 2008 issue about Mr. Wright , why keep bringing up the pass move on . His campaign need to focus on the country just t as they say President Obama need to do. they say no smear campaign what is this if it is not trying to smear. I am not democrat or republican where ar the independent runners need to get a breath of fresh air from all the stupidity. Instead of bashing each other solve the problems of our country

    May 17, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  15. Dee G.

    Obviously this group can't find any new material against the POTUS, so they resort to the same ole, same ole. Didn't work then, won't work now.

    May 17, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  16. NameBill

    The GOP can't beat Obama on his record so they use lies and distortions to sway voters.

    May 17, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  17. Sniffit

    ""It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so.""

    Examples of this "character assassination"? You don't really have any. GOPers/Teatrolls are going to resort to whining about Obama calling Deputy Doublethink a flip flopper? Go ahead. Pointing out that someone has taken one position when it was expedient in the past and is now taking a position diametrically opposed to that position because it is now expedient...that's not character assassination. Mittens should be held to account for his flip-floppery and the public should be educated about it because we deserve and need to know who is asking for our votes and the kind of pandering, waffling and opportunism in which Mittens has engaged suggests that he lacks the kind of core, guiding principles that should mark a POTUS' decision making. MITTENS COMMITTED CHARACTER SUICIDE WITH HIS OWN BEHAVIOR. Pointing it out is not "throwing mud" or "character assassination."

    May 17, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  18. Mary

    "It's clear President Obama's team is running a campaign of character assassination. We repudiate any efforts on our side to do so."

    Uh, Governor Romney? Isn't 'character assassination' exactly what you did to Newt Gingrich during the primaries?

    May 17, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  19. Mary

    Also, this Reverend Wright stuff just wreaks of desperation on the part of the GOP. Does anyone outside of the Republicans who hate the President anyway care what this goofball of a Reverand had to say?

    May 17, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  20. ALPHA

    What is everyone in Obama mania land worried about?

    Just because Rev. Wright is a goof ball, wacked out Lib, who hates America, preaches hatred from the pulpit and was Obamas pastor for 20+ years. Oh maybe thats part of it...ya think?

    May 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  21. John, PA

    If Mr. Obama sits and listens to the incendiary comments for 20 years, then yes; you can link Mr. Obama to incendiary comments by his spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr."

    The only headlines during the 2008 campaign about Jeremiah A. Wright were from Fox News, American voters are tired of the media propping up, covering up for Mr. Obama.

    “Gov. Romney is running a campaign based on jobs and the economy”, because Mr. Obama can’t run on his record, his legacy of FAILURES!

    CNN keep covering for Democrats and we’ll see CNN fall even further in the ratings, (CNN falls to the lowest rating in 15 years).

    May 17, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  22. Pete

    Romney again hiding behind his super pac masters,what next for this spinless candidate ,tell the truth!!The republicans ,with their buddies the SCOTUS, created this monster,now with an intelligent organizer,the incumbent as its true master ,it will turn on these same republicans,the ones who created it,that's what republicans are truelly scared of....

    May 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  23. John

    Romney even lies about lieing!

    May 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  24. David in Houston

    Desperation anyone?

    May 17, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. Vada

    Run it. Mitt can stay out of it. I gladly have sent money to Crossroads twice and to two other PAC’s and will keep sending it to whoever grows a spine and wants to fight back against these socialist pigs. It’s time to act as dirty as the community organizer and Alinski lover. The GOP calls for money now and I tell them I send it to PAC's. I tell the GOP to grow a spine and I will gladly pull out the checkbook.

    May 17, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
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