MoveOn ad: correction

Published May 16, 2008 10:00AM (EDT)

Correction: It seems an apology for this post is in order. We've heard from representatives for, and apparently Salon fell victim to a hoax. On Thursday, someone forwarded Salon reporters an e-mail that was purportedly sent by MoveOn's leadership to its members apologizing about an ad submitted for the group's "Obama in 30 Seconds" contest. But according to MoveOn, the ad was never submitted -- so, contrary to what I reported in the post below, it was never rejected either, and the e-mail was a fake. A rejection letter supposedly sent by MoveOn to the ad's makers was faked as well. We've pulled the ad from the post. We regret the error.


Earlier this week, liberal advocacy group announced the winner of a contest it had sponsored. Called "Obama in 30 Seconds," the competition sought an ad that the organization could run in support of Barack Obama. Considering MoveOn's history with controversial ads and ad contests, this go-round was actually quite tame. The winning spot looked like it could have been made by any campaign, and there appeared to be no controversy about the contest.

It turns out that all was not as harmonious as it initially appeared. On Tuesday, MoveOn leaders e-mailed their membership with an apology. It seems that out of the 1,486 ads that were submitted for the contest, only one was rejected. The group apparently hoped the rejected video would never see the light of day -- the e-mail says they attempted to destroy it and complains, "While we refused to post it on our site, unfortunately the 'filmmakers' took it upon themselves to post the video directly on their website, violating very clear rules of the competition." The e-mail also calls the ad "racist, ignorant, and downright wrong," and says, "We truly apologize for any offense this has caused. It certainly was not our intention to have something like this hit the web."

The ad is indeed racist, ignorant and downright wrong -- it's positively baffling, in fact, that anyone would be stupid enough to think it should run on television. But from the filmmakers' Web site, it appears that the team behind the ad -- as media gossip blog Gawker pointed out earlier this year when it picked up on a similar spot created for Hillary Clinton that was entitled "Experience C(o)unts" -- is really an over-the-top parody of an advertising agency that makes deliberately tasteless, offensive videos. The site's founders are named as Danny Sunday and Tripp Knight, and Knight is supposed to live in Los Angeles, California, but a quick public records search showed no record of any such person ever existing anywhere in the state. Plus, the site gives two addresses for the company. One is a group of upscale stores on Los Angeles' famed Rodeo Drive. The other is the original entrance to Chumley's, a legendary speakeasy in New York City once patronized by famous writers like E.E. Cummings, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Willa Cather, Alan Ginsberg, William Burroughs, William Faulkner and others.

According to a rejection letter the ad's makers received -- and posted to their site -- MoveOn didn't seem to get the joke. "We received over 1,400 submissions and yours is the only one we are unable to post on our site," the letter says. "It is tasteless and downright offensive. At one point you compare Senator Obama to a Dalmatian."

Obviously, MoveOn MoveOn meant well, but by using the language of a high school hall monitor, and doing the outfit the favor of singling it out for rejection, the group only played into the prank.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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