The NRSC has reversed itself after discovering that its ad contractor lied about its involvement in demanding “hicky” actors for its West Virginia ads. The Republican committee fired Jamestown Associates, which initially issued categorical denials about making that request and blaming a casting agency for the embarrassing gaffe:
The National Republican Senatorial Committee fired Jamestown Associates, a media consulting firm, and apologized to the voters of West Virginia on Thursday after committee officials learned that the firm was responsible for the derogatory term “hicky” in the casting call for an ad.
The NRSC also said committee officials had unknowingly made “inaccurate statements” when a furor arose over the ad, which has been pulled from the air. …
The NRSC said in a statement that Jamestown Associates, one of multiple ad vendors used by the committee, “was responsible for the offensive language surrounding our independent expenditure ad in West Virginia.”
“When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language, and we took them at their word,” the statement said. “Upon learning these facts this morning, the NRSC immediately fired Jamestown Associates.”
The ad agency even released an e-mail purporting to be the original and complete instruction to its casting agency, which did not include the “hicky” comment. The casting group responded late yesterday by releasing its copy of the e-mail from Jamestown Associates, which included the language later retransmitted by Kathy Wickline Casting. As Politico reports, that was a “word for word” copy of the request from Jamestown and not original to Wickline.
The NRSC took responsibility for the entire affair in its statement today:
“We apologize to any West Virginia voter who may have been offended by this firm’s actions, and we extend our apologies to Kathy Wickline and all those who were misled as a result of Jamestown Associates’ actions. The NRSC will have no further dealings, now or ever, with Jamestown Associates, but they were our vendor and we take responsibility for this unfortunate matter.”
This doesn’t change much about the kerfuffle. It still had nothing to do with John Raese, whose campaign is barred from coordinating in any way with the NRSC. The NRSC didn’t make a request for “hicky” actors, but it did spend the last week blaming the wrong people. That leaves the NRSC open for criticism, which it appears to deserve to the extent that they didn’t check with Wickline before publicly dumping all the blame on the casting agency. It wouldn’t have taken long for the NRSC to ask for that data and to get it before going off half-cocked and extending the embarrassment for a full week.
If this creates enough of a backlash to lose the WV election, it will be unfortunate, especially since the gaffe never involved the candidate at all. Manchin can certainly choose to exploit this, as he has already done, but in the end it’s still a contractor’s poor choice of words, not the NRSC or Raese’s. West Virginia voters have bigger problems on their minds than hickys and contractor dolts. If all Manchin can talk about is this and shooting holes in a bill at the center of his party’s agenda, voters should take that into consideration when deciding which candidate is serious about stopping the radical Democratic agenda.