May 17th, 2012
01:45 PM ET
6 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. Mm

    Interesting that Romneyused this opportunity to slam Obama while insisting he is doing this forte women & kids out there. Women know better...that Romney has zero intent on working for them.

    May 17, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

    Rev Wright is one of the worst anti-America people I have ever heard or seen in my lifetime. TWENTY years Obama was with this man and NEVER were such words spoken to Obama! NONSENSE!

    May 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    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...........
    What on earth are "3rd party vendors"? It brings to mind Newt Gingrich's "revolving charge account" at Tiffanny's. What are these vendors selling and who are they selling it to? The sound like people associated with the superPAC who go out and solicit donations. But since they may have crossed the metaphorical line, now they have to disconnect themselves from them by referring to them as a "3rd party". You gotta be Mitten me. It's all one big party, folks.

    May 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  4. gg

    bishop romney does not want religion placed in this election what so ever, this will be the first time republican,s will run a campaign where religion will not come up –wonder why

    May 17, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  5. Austin

    Based on Obama's presidency, it has been a non-issue. Based on the results of the 2008 election, Americans view it as a non-issue. It's clear Obama is the better candidate if this is all the Romney campaign can crap out.

    May 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  6. G. Gotch

    Billionaire? I though he was a presidential candidate..Romney? So to play fair you going to use, "Community Organizer" running for second term? It is disguisting how biased your news site it.

    May 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. newshead12

    Ok, pick your argument people! Either you don't like Obama's pastor, Rev. Wright. OR, you don't like him because he is Muslim. It can't be both!!! Pick one!

    May 17, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. davey

    Once again soetoro gets a pass. mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm!
    I display the same amount of respct for barry as you dancin' little step and fetch it demies did for bush.

    May 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Quite clearly Messina is your basic disingenuous rhetoric-addled pol. And regarding millionaires (that's last millenium's sobriquet; now they're actually bilionaires), their dough funds both democrat's and republican's campaigns; I and you might take some comfort in the fact that most of that "dough" is coming out of Romney's own coffers. The plain fact is that Romney is by far less beholden to the deep-pocket political powers in this country than is Barak Obama.

    May 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  10. Lou50

    I am not even a thousandair and I am shunning him also!

    May 17, 2012 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  11. California Conservative

    MSM playing the ignorant card again not reporting on the $150,000 bribe Obama offered back in 2008 to Rev. "Racist" Wright.

    May 17, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    ""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,"

    Translation: "We got a call from 'someone not associated with Romney's campaign' (beacuse it would be illegal if they were) who told us it was unacceptable."

    The guy spent the money and was wililng to throw down $10M to do this. He would have done it in a red second if Deputy Doublethink and the GOP establishment gave it the nod. Have no doubt that they still believe every bit of the bigotted filth they would've put in such an advertisement too.

    May 17, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  13. Texas Dude

    If Rev. Wright is anti-America, what does that make Rev. Pat Robertson?

    May 17, 2012 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    GOP to America: "We've spent almost 4 years messing everything up and obstru ting everythign to prove to you that minorities are not fit to govern...don't you believe us yet?"

    May 17, 2012 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Lisa P


    Once again soetoro gets a pass. mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm!
    I display the same amount of respct for barry as you dancin' little step and fetch it demies did for bush.
    May 17, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |

    More racism from GOP supporters on display. Why am I not surprised?

    May 17, 2012 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  16. michael

    i'm directing this post to "anagram_kid". Your statement about people not liking obama for personal reasons is just downright stupid. people are against him because of his terrible policies that have caused this country to linger in recession far longer than it needed to be. if you believe everything you put in your post, then you are about as stupid as a person could possibly be – extremely stupid and misinformed. it is dumb people like you that actually believe bho is a good thing for this country. it infuraites me to no end. people that support obama are either completely ignorant of his policies, poor people, or blacks that are voting for the color of his skin only.

    May 17, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  17. Rachel

    They can denounce it all they want but the information is out there about Obama and Rev. Wright and how he tried to bribe him to keep quiet. That cat is out of the bag.

    May 17, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. The Real Tom Paine

    This is a dead issue, and the sort of thing that will drive independents away from Romney. Why would the GOP even think of reviving it, unless they are afraid their base won't turn out?

    May 17, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  19. DeeNYC

    a republican refusing to sling mud is so monumental it's making headlines.

    May 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. The Real Tom Paine


    Once again soetoro gets a pass. mmmmm mmmmm mmmmmm!
    I display the same amount of respct for barry as you dancin' little step and fetch it demies did for bush.
    We never used racial slurs. Sorry to break it to you.

    May 17, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  21. Steve1959

    CNN is desperately trying to make an issue out of a non-issue here.

    May 17, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  22. Gurgyl

    I don't care, I am voting for Obama.
    Ps: this nation's dire need is Obama. This election is about rich v/s middle class America

    May 17, 2012 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Jack

    Mitt Romney…Billionaire destroyer of the American middle class.

    Here is how Pirate Equity works:

    Pirate Equity firms make fortunes by buying companies using a lot of leverage. They use very little actual cash. They then load the company down with loans and/or junk bonds, i.e. lots and lots of debt. They use the newly stolen…err…acquired company’s assets as collateral. And what do they do with all that cash from those loans? Use it to help the company, buy equipment, expand markets etc?

    Not hardly. They suck out all the cash with dividends to themselves, then later they make more money by taking the company public again and quickly abandoning it, or selling it at a higher price to a buyer who is only interested in it solely because of the cost advantages of the newly reduced workforce. That is of course if the company doesn’t go bankrupt first, which is the case in the vast majority of leveraged buyouts. Those sucked out / cash poor companies will take a decade to work off their debt and almost all go under trying, destroying the livelihoods of everyday workers who in some cases have worked their entire adult lives at these companies.

    Yep, Mitt understands America and particularly the middle class. He has put a ton of them out of work as he represents his core aristocratic beliefs so very well.

    May 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. barbraS

    Have you seen the wacky, anti-ethnic, anti-women stuff coming out of Romney's religion for the past 60 years? PULEEZE!!!!

    May 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  25. timothy

    Read Tricia Erickson.
    She is ex-Mormon and tells all. You will see her on TV this summer if you haven't heard of her.

    May 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
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