MoveOn.org sees political motives in NBC stations' rebuff of its ads

Two NBC-owned television stations have refused to carry advertisements sponsored by MoveOn.org’s PAC that accuse four incumbent Republicans of selling out to energy interests.

WVIT-TV in Hartford, Conn., and WCMH-TV in Columbus, Ohio, will not air the ads, which target Republican Reps. Nancy Johnson (Conn.), Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Chris Chocola (Ind.) and Thelma Drake (Va.). NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric, owns both affiliates.

“We expected Republicans to respond, but we didn’t expect two local NBC stations owned by GE to refuse to run our ad,” the MoveOn PAC said in a written statement yesterday. The group says it budgeted $1.3 million for advertising buys on 33 network affiliates in the lawmakers’ home markets.

The PAC insinuated that the refusal to carry the ads was politically motivated: “This smells of NBC pursuing its own political agenda at the expense of free speech and balance.”

NBC Universal, WVIT and WCMH did not respond to requests for comment by press time yesterday.

Except for different data on energy-sector campaign contributions given to each lawmaker, the script is the same for all four ads.

MoveOn attempts to link the incumbents to a litany of other Republican figures. “Tom DeLay. Dick Cheney. Jack Abramoff. And now, [name of member]. Another Republican caught red-handed,” the ad says as the lawmaker’s hand is illustrated turning red.

Against ominous background music, a narrator intones, “Instead of protecting us, [name of member] has been caught red-handed, protecting oil-company profits while we pay more at the pump.”

For Johnson, the ad states, “She accepted more than a quarter-million dollars from energy companies, and she voted against bills that would have penalized those companies for price gouging.”

Johnson has already launched a TV spot of her own that rebuts the MoveOn ad, condemns the group and calls out her challenger, state Sen. Chris Murphy (D).

Johnson campaign co-chairman Brian Flaherty said, “This shameful partisan ad is a new low for politics in our state.” Pryce spokesman Jeff LaRue said the ads are “reprehensible.” Chocola’s chief of staff, Brooks Kochvar, said stations’ refusal to air the ad “shows how false and defamatory it is.”