Ohio Dems accuse Chamber of doctoring photo in ad against Sen. Sherrod Brown

Democrats in Ohio are accusing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of doctoring a photograph of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a television ad it is airing against him — and the Chamber isn't denying it.

The original photo was taken by an Associated Press photographer in July 2006 outside a steel mill in Middletown, Ohio. The photo shows Brown clean-shaven, his hair tussled by the wind.

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But a beard has been added to the version used, appearing twice during the spot. The background has been changed to the inside of a room and the colors replaced by a pale green.

The photo used in the ad looks like surveillance-camera footage of a disheveled Brown.

"Is Sherrod Brown running from his tax-raising, job-killing record?" the ad asks.

Brown's wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz, pointed out on her Facebook page on Tuesday that the photo had been altered, adding that she was outraged by but not afraid of the Chamber's attacks.

A spokesman for the Chamber, J.P. Fielder, repeatedly declined to confirm or deny that the group doctored the photo in the ad.

"Anyone here you're going to talk to is going to talk about policies that are highlighted in the ad," Fielder said.

The Chamber of Commerce, which frequently supports Republican candidates, is also airing ads attacking Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and others supporting Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Republican representatives in Iowa, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

While there is no reason to believe that Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the GOP front-runner in the race to unseat Brown, had any involvement in the Chamber's ad, Democrats are pointing to its deceptive nature as part of a larger pattern of misleading Ohio voters about Brown's record on Medicare and Occupy Wall Street.

“The countless false and misleading claims made by Josh Mandel and his special interest friends have repeatedly been debunked by numerous nonpartisan organizations," said Ohio Democratic Party Press Secretary Justin Barasky. "And apparently not just content with distorting his record, they’ve now taken to distorting his picture."

Eyeing an opportunity to use the controversy to their advantage, Brown's campaign emailed supporters with a link to the photos and asking for contributions to help them counter the special-interest message.

"It’s a dirty trick -- digitally manipulating a photo just like they manipulate the truth. But this time, we’ve caught them red-handed," wrote campaign manager Sarah Benzing. "But with your help, we’ll be able to set the record straight and keep this campaign focused on the issues that matter to Ohio families."

A contribution of $35 will get donors an undoctored photo of Brown — "with a personalized autograph, so you know it's authentic."

Here's a screen shot of the ad and the original photo (courtesy of the Ohio Democratic Party):


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— This story was updated at 1:21 p.m. and 2:48 p.m.