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. California Conservative

    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?

    Lisa P – Please state exactly where in his statement there's anything racist. I know you won't because there isn't any.

    Thanks for playing Lisa

    May 17, 2012 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. Thomas

    CNN ,
    I hope when the GOP runs there diversionary spin on this man , they will also show his attributes !

    In 1961 Wright left college and joined the United States Marine Corps and became part of the 2nd Marine Division attaining the rank of private first class. In 1963, after two years of service, Wright joined the United States Navy and entered the Corpsman School at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Wright was then trained as a cardiopulmonary technician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Wright was assigned as part of the medical team charged with care of President Lyndon B. Johnson Before leaving the position in 1967, the White House Physician, Vice Admiral Burkley, personally wrote Wright a letter of thanks on behalf of the United States President.

    At lest he served his country military , unlike any of the Romneys.

    May 17, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  3. anagram_kid

    Al wrote – So, our president sitting in a racist church for 20 years is off limits, but Romney harassing some gay kid 47 years ago is fair game. And you dems call the repubs desperate? You're delusional.
    First of all your argument assumes that for those 20 years constant racist remarks were made. You also seem to think sitting in a church of someone who makes a statement you are not present for is the same as committing assault. Do you understand how flawed your thinking is?

    May 17, 2012 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  4. kevhar12

    Romney is A MORMON. Or Moron. Either way he will lie about the lies he lied about.

    May 17, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. CD

    Has anyone explained to Mitt that we are a nation of many religions and beliefs? Because if not maybe time to gently correct him.

    May 17, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. billy davis

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

    Says the man whose grandfather was kicked out of the US because of his multiple wives and his Church believed until 1979 that black folks were animals in their official doctrine. I would sy Romney's philosophical leaning are extremely questionable.

    May 17, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. Malory Archer


    The plain fact is that Romney is by far less beholden to the deep-pocket political powers in this country than is Barak Obama.


    "deep pocket political powers"? But you are correct – mittens' only loyalties are to his HIS OWN deep pockets and those of his wealthy benefactors.

    May 17, 2012 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    "I and you might take some comfort in the fact that most of that "dough" is coming out of Romney's own coffers."

    Wow, that's one big lie there. Rmoney is barely putting up any of his money. The deal with Rove was probably "Karl. you buy the election and I'll sign the bills."

    May 17, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. The Real Tom Paine

    -California Conservative

    MSM playing the ignorant card again not reporting on the $150,000 bribe Obama offered back in 2008 to Rev. "Racist" Wright.
    Ok, who offered Wright 150K? It would seem as thougha comment made by someone(Wright) who the righties had denounced would not be considered a credible source, but hey, if he slams Obama, his motives are suddenly pure, right? Nauseating double standard from the right, as usual.

    May 17, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Gee, it was a good idea until folks found out about it beforehand and condemned it as playing the race card.

    May 17, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. jake

    Indecent dirtbags is what they are.

    May 17, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    "Lisa P – Please state exactly where in his statement there's anything racist. I know you won't because there isn't any.

    Thanks for playing Lisa"

    Wow, you seriously don't get the "step and fetch it" reference? In that case, stop playing and start studying.

    May 17, 2012 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  13. Luke,AZ

    Robme can't possibly please all of the factions in his party. There are too many disparate groups, the three main groups are moderates,evangelicals and tea partiers. They are about to explode. What happened to the GOP. Sad to see, and I'm a Democrat.

    May 17, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    billy davis wrote:

    ....Says the man whose grandfather was kicked out of the US because of his multiple wives and his Church believed until 1979 that black folks were animals in their official doctrine.....
    Black folks were animals. Kind of sheds a new light on that video clip of Romeny standing with what appears to be a group of black younger teens when Romney shouts, "Who let the dogs out? Woof. Woof"

    May 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. BLKMANinAmerica

    It only shows repuks have no thing to offer America but LIES.

    May 17, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. Malory Archer

    California Conservative

    Lisa P – Please state exactly where in his statement there's anything racist. I know you won't because there isn't any.


    Glaringly ignorant much? Copied from YOUR OWN POST:

    "you dancin' little step and fetch it." Stepin Fetchit was a commonly-used derogatory and racist term for black people back before the days of Civil Rights – you know before the 60s, where your ilk wants to "take the country back" to. Are you really that ignorant or are you just playing for the crowd.

    May 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. davey

    A little research never hurts Lisa P. Please refer to "Uneasy Rider" by Charlie Daniels.

    May 17, 2012 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  18. Holla

    What do you expect from reputhugs when they run out of ideals. They don't have nothing to taik about the President and that's the reason why they are looking for way to distract American people. A word is enough for a wise!

    May 17, 2012 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  19. maxine howard

    Him and his wife belonged to Rev. Wright's church for More than 20 years, which is too long. Oprah was also a member but quit after a short time because of Rev. Wright's anti American anti white hate rhetoric. Evidently, Barack was a little more taken with his words than was Oprah. That is why Barack's judgment comes in to play as he runs for the most powerful position in the free world. Rev. Wright and with rhetoric and Barack's ambition to lead the mostly white American people are on opposite ends of the spectrum. I personally do not care for anyone that is presently running. I have no faith in President Obama, and I believe he has done enough harm to this country already. I do not think much of Rommney's abilities either. I will give him a try, just to get this very inept President out. He is almost as bad as Jimmy Carter in my opinion.

    May 17, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  20. Brian serving in the military gives you a pass on being a racist...

    Oh, and I love how you use the fact that Romney never served while ignoring the fact that Obama didn't either.

    Great argument. lol

    May 17, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  21. clubschadenfreude

    cali conservative, I hope you do realize that calling people steppin fetchits is a old racist term for african americans. It is quite racist especially in reference to anythign that has to to with an african american president.

    May 17, 2012 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  22. Snr

    I find it telling that the people who seem horrified that republicans would point out that Obama not only went to a church that preached racial hatered but sent his kids there but they think talk about dogs is fair game. Same morons who think it is offensive to call Barrack Hussein Obama by his actual name but giggle like a bunch of prepubescent girls when they call him mittens. The really funny part is that since most liberals are small minded bigots who hate Mormons they assume conservatives are as well.

    May 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  23. candycane

    I'd like this fiasco to be investigated by the United States Attorney General, and charges filed in a Court of Law!! t is positively unacceptable for ANY individual who lives in America, no matter his color, race, or creed, make such derogatory and hateful remarks about the President of the United States! I hope Joe Ricketts and EVERY person who is involved in this super pac ad, end up in a Court of Law!, are found "guilty" and are sentenced to many years in prison!! This is a "hate crime" pure and simple!

    May 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  24. jo

    Obama is a fan of the Cubs....what a shame to have the owner 'trash' him...hope he rethinks...

    May 17, 2012 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  25. jo

    Read what LIBERATIONS THEOLOGY is is about getting Corporations to take their shoe off the throats of the poor in South America!!! I suspect Jesus would have been in the 'movement'.

    May 17, 2012 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
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