October 7th, 2010
09:59 AM ET
12 years ago

Talent agency for GOP ad called for 'hicky blue collar look'

UPDATE 11:00 a.m. ET: The NRSC has removed the ad from YouTube.

(CNN) - An ad out this week that's financed by National Republicans portrays three West Virginia voters in a rustic-looking diner declaring that Gov. Joe Manchin, the Democrat's Senate nominee, should stay "right here in West Virginia."

But there is one caveat: The ad was shot at least 250 miles east of the state, in Philadelphia, and features not actual West Virginians, but paid actors instead. And to look the part of a West Virginian, the talent agency in charge of casting for the spot sent out a call for a "'Hicky' Blue Collar look."

"These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks," the casting call read, obtained by CNN from a Democratic source. "Each character should bring [sic] several options and stay away from all black or all white or thin stripes (thicker stripes and plaid are good)."

The talent agency also made several additional clothing suggestions, including a "Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath," "Down filled vest," "John Deer hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)," and "Trucker hats (not brand new, preferably beat up)."

Democrats eagerly circulated the casting call – first reported by Politico – Thursday morning. But a National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman says the GOP hired a subcontractor for the commercial and had never seen the language that was used to recruit the spot's actors.

Republicans removed the ad from YouTube on Thursday morning.

"Contrary to the false headline in Politico, no one at the NRSC, or associated with the NRSC, had anything to do with the language used in this casting call. We do not support it, and suffice to say, we would encourage our contractors to never work with this outside agency again," said Brian Walsh, NRSC Communications Director."

An NRSC official added that the Independent Expenditure arm of the Republican organization contacted a GOP consulting firm to produce the ad, Jamestown Associates, which in turn approached the talent agency that used the casting call in question. It was the talent agency, and not the NRSC or the GOP consulting group that used the "hicky" language," the official said.

Nonetheless, the ad ends with the text, “The National Republican Senatorial Committee is responsible for the content of this ad," and a GOP source confirmed the ad was removed from YouTube because "Democrats are trying to make it an issue to distract from Manchin's flip-flopping on ObamaCare."

Of course, actors have long been used for political commercials by both parties alike, and even as Democratic sources leaked the casting call, they admitted their party uses actors too. But rarely is such colorful language revealed showing just how these spots get the right look to fit a state's demographics.

Still, Manchin, who is locked in a tight Senate battle with Republican businessman John Raese, immediately called on Raese to apologize for the language used in the casting call

"John Raese and his special interest friends have insulted the people of West Virginia and need to immediately apologize," said Manchin in a statement. "Not only have they been spending millions to try and buy this election with lies and distortions, we can now see once and for all what he and his friends really think of West Virginia and our people."

Actors and fake costumes aside, the ad itself might not be too far off in conveying the actual feelings of West Virginia voters during this cycle where any candidate viewed as the establishment faces an uphill battle.

"I won't be voting for [Manchin] for Senate," Nathan Rose, manager of the First Watch Diner in Charleston, told CNN this week. "I just want someone who is going to stand up against the way things are going," he said.

"I voted for him both times he's run here in West Virginia, but going to Washington, it scares me to death that he's just going to be a rubber stamp," said another voter, Dave Ridel. "I'm afraid he's going to be a rubber stamp for [President] Obama and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelsoi."

The winner of November's special election will fill the final two years of the term of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who died earlier this year. Byrd was first elected to the Senate in 1958.

–CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Alexander Mooney contributed to this report

Filed under: 2010 • Ads • Joe Manchin • John Raese • West Virginia
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. nick

    Anyone who thinks that the GOP is the party of the man in the street, let alone the "hickey" red neck, needs psychological counseling in the worst possible way. They are suffering from exetreme dilussional fanatacies and re a danger to themselves and others. Oh GOP promises of small gov't, etc... when ave they ever kept one! Government and spending have risen under Deagan,Bush I, Bush II and they will rise again... the GOP is the Party of BGNESS and have shown it all the way through.

    October 7, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  2. fuyuko

    well, they did a good job. the actors look just like the casting call requested.

    October 7, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  3. Chris (DC)

    Why are all CNN headlines now starting with "turning heads" "causing a stir" or something similar? Yet, nothing in the article actually says that. Please CNN, stop slithering into the Fox world.

    October 7, 2010 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  4. mabel floyd

    money and tricks equal republicans. if you vote for them you get stuck with them-trouble is i am stuck with them also. why would anyone vote for these tricksters? i can understand why any greedy billionairs vote for them-but why any average middle class would vote against their best interests and the interests of the country it beyond understanding!
    please if you are sane you will vote democratic–so please vote.

    October 7, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. Ashley Hockenberry

    It is SO obvious these "actors" are not West Virginians and it is insulting to West Virginians, of which I am one.
    The idea that you can dress people up and ask them to act like hicks with the belief that everyone will think they are West Virginians is ludicrous – and then air the commercial inside West Virginia, where anyone call tell they are from somewhere else – it would almost be funny if it were not so sad !

    I believe most West Virginians would support Joe Manchin's political aspirations...

    October 7, 2010 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  6. Bob in PA

    Oh dear, you mean to tell us that people in political ads are really paid actors ?

    Grow up Dana ! Stop being an Democrat operative. You want to be a reporter, go after some real news.

    October 7, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  7. DP

    What? Actors and talent agencies are hired for ads? Scandalous!

    October 7, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  8. barry

    It's West Virginia, of course they were looking for hicky type.

    October 7, 2010 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. Dan J

    Like any of the people on those political commercials are real. Please. I'm sure the DSCC has done similar things. This is a non-issue.

    October 7, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  10. Solutions and not Rhetoric

    If this isn't the smoking gun as to how republicans are so out of touch with "real working class Americans" I don't know what is! They had to HIRE actors to appear like working class Americans. They did so because they can't relate! Most working class and educated Americans are trending democratic. I despise the Republican Party for trashing the good name of the Tea Party movement. It was hijacked by these bums who can't relate to Americans and use sound bytes, edited tape, caricatures, and misinformation all for the sake of THEIR financial gain! I am an independent who was looking forward to new ideas from republicans but it appears as though it is the same as usual. I'm no fan of the Democrats but I will give them a little more time before allowing the Republicans to continue to ruin and divide this country.

    October 7, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  11. Cincinnatian

    this reminds me of the republican press conference to introduce their "agenda" where John Boehner and his pals all wore blue shirts and no ties. such staging reaks of dishonesty...and makes me run in the opposite direction.

    October 7, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  12. Mark

    It really is pathetic the GOP are so arrogant and clueless as their arrogance. I will never vote a Republican because of their constant attempts to divide this country. If our government gets worse, I'll gladly move to another country. The people of the US are losing faith in their government, not from Obama like all the idiot racists out there, but because of the GOP. Period.

    October 7, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  13. u2canfail

    Average American citizens to the GOP are "hicks". So why on earth would the ad company ask for any actors without a "blue collar hicky look"?
    It is the CEO mentality, fool the small people, make them think, we are on their side, while making 434% more than the his average worker.

    October 7, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  14. Children

    Yeah, wuddaya expect. There are two kinds of elites:
    1) Democrats who want to look for solutions in the real world that work for everybody.
    2) Republicants who just want to get votes, get into power, make money, help their friends and family.

    October 7, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  15. William Jefferson

    Hysterical. East coaster "elite" actors pretending to be hicks to convince actual hicks to vote against their own interests, and paid for by wealthy Wall Street executives.

    October 7, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |

    Yep CNN, there is a "Multitude of us Hickey Blue Collar Folks", out here that intend to run the Democrats out of the country. What's the matter you and the Blue-Gums don't like it. Then all I can do is pray for you for you are too dumb to try and help at this late time in life.

    October 7, 2010 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  17. Hugh

    This talent agency is uneducated about the blue collar workforce. Many blue collar workers are traditionally Democrats who belong to unions. Unions typically support the Democratic Party. Republican politicians only care about the rich. Those blue collar workers who support the Republican Party seem blind to this. Republicans like to refer to the Democrats as "the elitists," when in fact the opposite is true. Most college students are Democrats, and that's why Republicans evoke this "elitist" label in the name of Democrats. Those Republicans who consider themselves blue collar have likely never punched a time clock or belonged to a union — traits that are consummate of blue collar workers.

    October 7, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Anything to win has been the Karl Rove mantra all his life. Look up his bio on wikipedia and see the dirty political prank he did during his one and only year in college. He has led the Republican political strategy in this country for a long time, and it's is nothing short of shameful.

    October 7, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
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