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. FLIndependent

    @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."
    If you honestly believe it is Obama's policies that are making the recession last longer than I'm afraid you're the stupid one my friend. Most of Obama's policies haven't been enacted because Congress hasn't allowed them to – where have you been?? We still have the Bush tax cuts which haven't produced jobs here in this country for over 11 years now, Congress hasn't passed Obama's job's bill which would create many jobs repairing and building much needed infrastructure, etc. Why are people like you so willfully blinded when EVERYONE knows the Repubs' only goal is to make Obama a one term president. Get serious!!

    May 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  2. Tony

    An ad like thing will only make happy the people who were not going to vote for Obama anyway , but the backlash is that it will fire up the democratic base and push independents. This story broke only because the GOP wanted it to. That way they can get the story out there and get people to talk about it, while Mitt and his cronies seem to take the high road and look like they are above the non sense.The devil is a master at deception. Meanwhile Romney Mr. ANTI- ABORTION is holding a fund raiser at a guy house who's company make birth control pills.Guess the MOB (look it up) rule is alive and well.

    May 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Obama supporter turned Romney supporter

    obama didnt keep his promises. no work in the US, and not a president for the people. I think we should give romney a go, as a liberal i think we cant deny that obama doesnt appear to have a grip on things. he had an opportunity to do something great and it seems he didnt rise to the occasion. troubling times.

    May 17, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. feedledum

    It's impossible to assassinate Romney's character. He has none.

    May 17, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. anagram_kid

    Someone who disagrees with you is downright stupid… as stupid as a person could possibly be – extremely stupid and misinformed…dumb …completely ignorant…poor… black. Thanks for proving my point!

    Now tell me all the things McCain has done to improve the economy.

    May 17, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    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


    Don't pretend to be dumb. Stepin Fetchit's film persona is a negative stereotype for whites to laugh at.

    May 17, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  7. 1936 redux

    So far I have seen ONLY negative attack ads by the Obama campaign; viz,Bain Capital etc;. The Obama campaign is based completely upon blame and shame the opponent. Yet the news media,including,particularly this network, has completely failed to point out the negative nature of the Obama campaign. Why was negative campaigning first raised here–even though no ad has appeared. Sometimes, I think, the media wants this nation divided by biased reporting. It makes for more readers. If there is anyone out there who is at all informed they must conclude that CNN,ABC, and MSNBC are all rabid Obama supporters and report the news in their own biased ways. I can hear the roar now–but, what about Fox? They report the news from a Romney point of view. OK, but does that make of this right?

    May 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  8. Smarg

    I'd rather have a very successful businessman and executive than a half-Kenya reparationist ANY day.

    May 17, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Romney supporter – You really have to turn of Fox foreign owned media. Obama has kept most of his promises. Over 280 have been achieved, but 65 have been stopped by the GOP. (Gitmo, tax reform, infrastructure, etc) In America, we have to accept that the party of no will never help our country, even though they took an oath. Instead, the GOP honors only the oath to Grover Norquist.

    May 17, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  10. Jilleranda

    That sign in the background of the video should also have a line that reads "Debt per Elected politician since the last budget surplus"

    May 17, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. HPNII

    Wright is lunatic that even Obama couldn't defend.

    May 17, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I forgot, the other 60 of Obama's promises are still in the works. Sorry for the confusion this may have caused the right wingnuts.

    May 17, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. Bren

    If you go to Yahoo and do a search on this, you will see why Obama can be connected to Reverand Wright AND a Muslim at the same time.......Don't forget, Farrakhan and Rev Wright even went together to visit Momar Godaffi in Libya!!Louis Farrakhan + Reverand Wright

    May 17, 2012 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. T'sah From Virginia

    ►Billionaire denounces potential Rev. Wright ad◄
    But for him to even THINK about it is really sad
    And then MITTens claims he repudiates it and then blames the President for "character assassinating" him
    Really? Because the President speaks the truth about BAIN and Romney's Governship – Which neither one is a WIN!

    In an interview with Sean Hannity, Romney himself referenced Jeremiah Wright – but today, when asked about it, Romney responded, “I haven’t, haven’t, I’m not familiar precisely with exactly what I said but I stand by what I said whatever it was….”

    OMG, Really? He does not remember what he said but he stands by what he said? It had to do with Jeremiah Wright you moron……….Jeez!! How does Romney get away with this???

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    May 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    "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."

    It's been a LONG time since anyone has complained about the President's name, although the rightwing hate machine still likes to emphasize it. And we don't need to "assume" anything about "conservatives." Your hatred, bigotry and ignorance are on display here daily.

    May 17, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  16. Johnson

    I doubt very much if Wright was ever the Spiritual Advisor to Obama. He seems like the classical nut case who simply serves a purpose by presiding over Sunday service. The Priests at my Parish would never cut it to be my Spiritual Advisors. They are just there to provide a service to the congregation.

    May 17, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  17. jake

    EVASION is a word well known in Mitt Romney's life. EVADING the military draft by going to France as a bogus missionary during the Viet Nam War. EVADING taxes by hiding his money in secret accounts abroad. It must be a core principle in his DNA as his grandfather EVADED prosecution for polygamy by fleeing to Mexico and NONE of his 5 sons served our military. Typical cult behavior.

    Is America that desperate and far removed from our values that they would consider a man so devoid of courage and honesty as a President? This man believes that it is a birthright of his to be President, that it is below him or his sons to serve in the military, even admitting that his sons serve their country by helping to get him elected. Then to hide his money from the VERY SAME government he want's to be in charge of. Al Capone would be just as fitting as this man to be President.

    This is the mindset and brass ones of this man. This is how he defines service to our country. A slap to all veterans, to all of our brave men and women serving on the battlefieds today. He is an empty suit, has no honesty, and defines his values as what is best for him. GWB may have been what he was, but he had more on the ball than this guy. Shame on America, shame on the Republicans for putting this dishonest clown as their nominee for President. Shame.

    May 17, 2012 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    "obama didnt keep his promises. no work in the US, and not a president for the people. I think we should give romney a go, as a liberal i think we cant deny that obama doesnt appear to have a grip on things. he had an opportunity to do something great and it seems he didnt rise to the occasion. troubling times."

    Gotta love the phony "liberals". The giveaway is that a REAL liberal knows facts, and know perfectly well which cult has been blocking the President's efforts.

    May 17, 2012 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  19. Eric

    To Obama supporter turned Romney supporter.
    Please do not give me any of your Kool-Aide. It causes one to go dumb. Do you not realize that it was the republicans who set forth an intentional effort to block every effort that President has made. The republicans never complained about the debt under Bush when two wars and huge tax breaks for wealthy americans were paid on borrowed money from China. During that time, these breaks did not provide a many jobs and a prosperous economy. Instead, there was a near market crash and deep recession. However, the republicans continue to vote to increase the debt ceiling. Obama came to office and reversed a severe economic slide. He also placed into the budget, the tax cuts and 2 wars. Thus the debt you see today is due to the severe misuse of a trillion dollar surplus Bush messed over. Romney economic plans with more tax cuts will increase the deficit by 3 to 5 trillions. He proposed to cut spending of certain domestic programs that he does not care reveal. His economic plan is garbage and will further divide this nation economically not creating many jobs. So get off the Kool-Aide and get the facts.

    May 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. Iroham I.C

    Obama is not a christian he is just pretending, I was surprise his saying he is a practising Xtian. I think US has lost focus with the foundation 'In God we trust' Santorum has a better landing than both. The future of US is in ? The moral values are dying, the young generation stand in doubt of morality. Obama disappoint if he really believe there is God by his open declaration. Leader's sin is a leading sin. Abraham Lincoln and founding father will stand against him for his permissive stand on moral issues.If he is a christian let's see it "opposite attract but he said 2 negative or 2 positive attract" Gay, lesbian is immoral. Am disappointed at him.

    May 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. Rob Jones

    The Romney campaign or the PAC must do what the media has consistently failed to do and that is to hold Obama to account for all of his shady, anti-American associations and also to dig in to his past with half the enthusiam they showed for investigating GWB's flight hours in the ANG. The bias is absolutely infuriating and I see no reason for Romney to apologize or repudiate those asking the tough questions. We know CNN and the mainstream outlets won't. They gladly bow to the boy emperor every time.

    May 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. Really?

    Grasping for straws. That is exactly what the GOP will be doing if they run anything that pertains to rev. wright. Romney really does not want to go there. The amount of TRASH that Obama could dig up on his sorry tail would be enought to shut everything down. Let us focus on the facts, not foolishness.

    May 17, 2012 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. B. R. W.

    Hey John in PA- unless you give the readers a little citation of where you got your claims about Obama, you are merely participating in the same rumor mill and junior high school mud slinging as everyone else. FAIL. Links to other nutball comments on other news forums don't count.

    May 17, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  24. Jim Hahn

    All points to the fact that in America,

    May 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  25. mein kamph

    So the CEO of Ameritas is using millions and millions of dollars to get Mitt elected? Wonder if he is using some of the tactics that Chase Bank did? All you people with money invested with Ameritas better watch out.. it could be gone before November.

    May 17, 2012 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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