Activist Group Under Fire for Misleading Stem Cell Research Attack Ads

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 13, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Activist Group Under Fire for Misleading Stem Cell Research Attack Ads Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 13
, 2006

Washington, DC ( — A Democratic-oriented political organization is under fire for running misleading attack ads against pro-life Congressional lawmakers seeking re-election. The ads seek to paint the pro-life candidates as against helping patients because they voted against forcing taxpayer to pay for unproven embryonic stem cell research.

The Washington-based Majority Action has run the ads in at least two Congressional districts.

The ads claim at least two pro-life members of Congress, Indian’s Chris Chocola’s and Thelma Drake in Virginia, oppose stem cell research. The ads say the lawmakers oppose the research in general even though they have supported the use of adult stem cells.

The commercials each feature the same actress holding a picture of the lawmakers in question saying that her member of Congress voted against federal funding of stem cell research — without any further elaboration or qualification.

The 60-second ads feature the woman’s fictional testimony who says she will be afflicted with conditions that embryonic stem cell research could treat if not for the pro-life lawmaker’s opposition.

The controversial research has yet to cure a single patient and is not anywhere close to being ready to do so, James Sherley, a stem cell researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said last week.

"How come she gets to decide who lives and who dies? Who is she?" the ads against Drake ask.

Chocola’s campaign criticized the ad, which Majority Action has pulled from the airwaves.

"Chris Chocola is not her congressman and any statement to the contrary is absolutely and undeniably false," Brooks Kochvar, a spokesman for the pro-life lawmaker, said.

Kochvar said the "patently false" ad was pulled from WNDU-TV because it is false, but Bill Buck, a Majority Action representative, told the South Bend Tribune that the group took it down because of changing election priorities.

"We decided to spend the money elsewhere," Buck claimed in a comments to the newspaper. "We used some of that money to up our buy elsewhere."

Buck conceded the woman in the ad is not a constituent in either congressional district.

Matt Jaquint, general manager at WNDU-TV, told the Tribune newspaper that the group "didn’t source anything in the ad" and said its removal was "more of a legal issue" than whether the ad was true or false.

Drake’s campaign manager, Tim Murtaugh, also blasted the ads in comments to the Hampton Roads Daily Press. He has sent letters to stations demanding that the ads be removed immediately.

"The very suggestion that Thelma Drake is able to pick and choose who dies is beyond the pale in political discourse," he said. "The ad is extremely offensive and distasteful."

The newspaper indicated the same ad is also running against pro-life lawmakers in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Buck said the anti-Drake ad, which premiered on Tuesday, was only slated to run through tonight and will be off the air after that. But their goal to make pro-life lawmakers appear anti-patient and against cures has probably already been achieved.