CNN, NBC Nix Pro-life Obama Ad: Its YouTube Popularity Grows

BlogHer Original Post

When Pres. Barack Obama speaks to a joint session of Congress tonight, he won't be talking about abortion, but that's what's goting to be one the minds of viewers upset about CNN's rejection of a pro-life ad based on his life story.

The ad, "Imagine" features an ultrasound image of a fetus while a narrator talks about the challenges that await its birth: an absent father, a single mother, poverty. Despite this, the narrator says, the child will grow up to be President. Fade to a picture of Obama and the tagline: "Life: Imagine the Potential."You can see it here:

The Fidelis Center for Law and Policy, the group behind, has been running the ad, "Imagine," for weeks on YouTube, garnering 1,698,374 hits as of this writing. It ran on BET on inauguration day, according to Newsweek, but NBC refused to run it during the Super Bowl, and now CNN has said it will not run the ad during tonight's speech.Julia Dunn at the Washington Times has been following the controversy. In January, she reported that NBC rejected the ad because, it said, it does not air issue ads during the Super Bowl. This week,she reported this explanation CNN's rejection of the ad:

"Thank you for your patience. We have decided to pass on this creative. CNN doesn't accept advocacy ads that portray personal decisions in a manner that suggests a position in favor of the advocacy message, without having permission of the persons involved."

The folks at CatholicVote and their supporters say CNN is being hypocritical because in 2005, they reportedly accepted an ad from NARAL that links then Chief Supreme Court Justice nominee John Roberts to abortion clinic bombers. According to Dunn, NARAL withdrew the ad after heavy criticism, but she adds: "I don't think John Roberts' permission was asked before that ad ran." I'm looking for a copy of the ad and documentation of the controversy.

A number of bloggers are wondering what the fuss is about. Stupid Celebrities opined."It seems to be a very positive message." The headline on Stan Guthrie's Christianity Today, post asks whether the refusal to air the ad constitutes "viewpoint discrimination?"

However, London Times blogger Bess Twiston-Davies called the ad "stage one of the pro-life Obama wars."

As she and others note, there is great concern that Obama and his allies will revive the Freedom of Choice Act which would enshrine the principles of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade in law. The bill expired in 2007 without coming to a vote. Obama expressed support for reproductive rights during his presidential run. Shortly after taking office, he overturned the "global gag rule" withholding funding for family planning programs that offer abortion services or advice.


David Waters, a religion blogger for Newsweek, finds the ad "disingenuous at best, exploitive at worse:

Obama's parents were married when he was born. There's no evidence Obama's mother ever considered an abortion. And as my Dallas Morning News colleague Bruce Tomaso points out, "couldn't you make the same argument about anyone? If Tim McVeigh's mom had had an abortion, might those 168 people in Oklahoma City still be alive?"

In advertising and public relations, there is a widely-repected standard called the TARES test that is used to judge the ethical merits of an ad or promotion:

  1. Is the ad Truthful?
  2. Is the advocate Authentic?
  3. Does the persuader Respect the "persuadee"?
  4. Is there Equity?
  5. Is the campaign Socially Responsible?

Given Waters' argument, does the "Imagine" ad pass the TARES test? If you were a broadcast executive, would you run it?


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