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)

    Willard, you wouldn't like it if we mention your granddaddy and his polygamist lifestyle. Is that traditional marriage? Or what about ot accepting African Americans into the Mormon clergy? You repudiate what some SuperPAC is doing, but you don't recall what you said about the President to Sean Hannitty in February? You are so full of it. You're bad lack of memory should automatically disqualify for the office. You may have a case of Alzheimer's.

    May 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  2. UhYeaOk

    Good for him, why sink to the level of a Democrat?

    May 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    "Wright is lunatic that even Obama couldn't defend."

    Really? Bet you can't post a single in-context quote that proves a well-regarded war veteran is anywhere close to being a lunatic. Some of CNN's righty staff and posters here, on the other hand.....

    May 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  4. Jim Hahn

    All points to the fact that in America, YOU CAN BUY AN ELECTION.

    May 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  5. astu

    The economy was distroyed by your president Bush for 8 years which Obama has to be blamed. He's been working on that and absolutely does a remarkable job. Stop blaming this man go and butch Bush.

    May 17, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. anne

    In playing the game with these democrats, one either plays dirty which IS how they will play or one loses. Pick one. I'm quite sure that Obama and his minion have plenty or dirty tricks up their sleeve as BO certainly doesn't seem worried. I am sure if he gets in real election trouble, he will pull the war card, postpone elections, anything and everything is on the table and remember, good guys finish last when they don't expose the truth!

    May 17, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. vote the Tea Party OUT in 2012

    one thing it seems Obama could do that Romney can not seem to bring himself yet to do is denounce someone who supported him for the stance they took or something they said. Romney is scared of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Ted Nugent or even evangelical ministers that don't like gays to the point Mitt would not even defend one of his own supporters who was gay.

    May 17, 2012 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  8. Rob Jones

    If not for generations of Christian indoctrination, the Rev. Wright surely would be a Muslim. I see little difference, right down to the garb his ilk chooses to wear in church. That was Obama's minister for 20+ years folks...

    May 17, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. anagram_kid

    Just for good measure in case Michael still thinks I am stupid to say that the people who bash President Obama do so based on policy, I offer you this little gem:
    I'd rather have a very successful businessman and executive than a half-Kenya reparationist ANY day.

    Obama 2012- Logic matters

    May 17, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. Karl

    Why don't the Republican in Congress and in the country called it for what it is? Racist, I remember a speech by senate minority leader saying that his colleagues would do anything in their power to make this president a one term president. We have a nation have not overcome our racial feelings. Obama can't and will not see any of his proposal pass on this congress because he is Black plain and simple. Even with Clinton, a republican congress pass most of the proposal put forward by then president Clinton even when Newt and company were trying to get Clinton out. Anything that will help the republican party to build a wedge between the races will work for them, even if it is lies....

    May 17, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. Thomas

    @Brian serving in the military gives you a pass on being a racist...

    I didn't say that. I said he did his job and was given a commendation for doing it well.
    There is enough Racism to go around . I think your confusing Racism with justus for all.

    Obama doesn't have five sons who avoided voluntary service !

    May 17, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  12. 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.

    Even muslin religion know he is out of context in his pronouncement, talk of pagans.cos he want people vote him in. From Iroham I.C

    May 17, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  13. arale norimaki

    I'll be around. Where there's a rich white guy in need of another tax break, I'll be there. Wherever there's a brain dead woman in need of expensive life support her husband doesn't want, I'll be there. Wherever there's a country that needs invading for reasons that don't quite pan out, I'll be there. the gop

    May 17, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  14. jrm03063

    The only thing Mitt renounces is the add being outed too soon and being forced to renounce it.

    May 17, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  15. Jerry

    Wow, the foxes (Democrats) guarding the "chicken houses." They start the negative campaigning in the first place, but can't take the "medication" when the Republican machine uses the exact same tactics (respond in-kind).

    It seems that the Republicans want to make nice, and run the cleanest campaign possible, but Mr. Obama and his so called Team Obama just want to continue with the lies, smoke and mirrors and scurrilous attacks.

    With this administration, hypocrisy and lies know no bounds!

    Oh yeah, Ms. Cutter does take a good photo! I am wondering if she is being used for her looks, rather than her smarts. Just wondering...

    "Apparently, I'm supposed to be more angry about what Mitt Romney does with his OWN money than what Barack Obama does with mine."

    Oh well...

    May 17, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Goodtymes

    obama only listen to him for 20 years and wright married them, have you listen to his so called sermons, even Oprah left that church.

    May 17, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. MaryM

    Oh please do run the Rev Wright ad. Dems will be MORE then happy to run Bishop Romneys statements, beliefs and exactly what he believes. Some really crazy stuff. Gotta love that Joseph Smith scam

    May 17, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  18. mm

    Good thing Romney didn't sink to attacking Obama's character during the press conference/photo op/campaign event today....but oh, wait, he sure did..Never mind.

    Romney is lower and slimier than mud.

    May 17, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  19. Bob in Texas

    This ad says a lot more about Republicans than it does about Obama, and it ain't pretty.

    May 17, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  20. Dana

    I'm sure @astu is one who doesn't breathe without blaming someone for his pathetic existence, mommy, daddy, aunt, uncle, the next door neighbor. STOP WITH THE BLAME GAME.
    I applaud Mr. Ricketts for his stance, and just slam them on their record, PERIOD.

    May 17, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  21. Stacey

    I would give Romney kudos if he hadn't already spent the past 6 months attacking President Obama. That is like beating someone up and then preaching peace when they fight back. Sorry, Mitt, it doesn't work that way. Furthermore, while you have numerously remained silent on issues of personal attacks against Michelle Obama, President Obama stepped up and -defended- your wife, saying that no politician's spouse should be brought up in political attacks. Additionally, you have only sneered at rude insults about the president. On the contrary, he has responded to those about you by saying you are a respectable man with different views. Don't pretend you're the bigger person here because you're not. Do not take credit where credit is not due (for the hundredth time).

    May 17, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  22. Thomas

    @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.

    @Brian, no more then being a Mormon gives you a pass on being a racist.

    I said he did his job well , and received a commendation for doing so.

    Also Obama doesn't have five sons who avoided voluntary military service !

    May 17, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. dallastexas75205

    They should run the ad, Obama will just counter with the head of Romney's church, Warren Jeff's. No biggie!

    May 17, 2012 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. nairb247

    @maryM – give it up. Not even close.

    May 17, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  25. gg

    you won,t anything about religion or he,s a patriot fighting for freedom this round.

    May 17, 2012 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
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