Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Screen shot from Obama’s
‘Fight the Smears’ website
A television commercial showing clips of Sen. Barack Obama mocking the Bible has prompted backlash from the candidate’s “Fight the Smears” website, which falsely accuses the ad’s creator of trying to scam Christians out of their money by promising to air a spot that will never be broadcast.
Under the heading “Scamming the faithful,” Obama’s official website says of the man who made the commercial, “The trickster’s claims about Barack’s faith are every bit as false as his claims that this amateurish video is really a TV ad.”
WND has confirmed, however, that – true to his word – the ad’s creator purchased air time for the commercial on television stations in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. Sources at WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh and a cable company servicing Erie told WND that the ad had been aired on several occasions.
Nonetheless, in an Oct. 3 update to “Scamming the Faithful,” the Obama website maintains its attack of the commercial’s creator, Stephen Marks of the organization pH for America.
“Nothing has changed here,” reads the Oct. 3 update, “The scammer is still untrustworthy. … Making scams seem plausible is what tricksters like him are known for. In the end, he’s even less credible now than he was when he first started taking people’s money.”
“It is ironic indeed,” responded Marks in a statement, “that this so-called ‘Fight the Smears’ website (is) not fighting smears but creating them.”
Marks insists that every dollar he has raised through his website and the appeal for support at the end of the ad “has gone to pay for the media buys and minimal production costs.” Marks also claims that that pH for America purchased a television as a gift for the Obama campaign “so they can watch the TV and see the ads airing for themselves.”
Made into both a one-minute and two-minute commercial format, the shorter of the two advertisements can be seen here:
Marks told WND, “If this ad is seen by all the swing voters in all the key swing states, it would not only anger anyone who reads the Bible, but will make anyone who sees the ad re-think the Jeremiah Wright fiasco as well as Obama’s remarks in April that ‘small town America’ is so bitter that they have to ‘cling to their guns and religion.’
“Most Americans have thus far given Obama a pass on those two issues, but after seeing our ad, it will make many, if not most folks think, ‘Now I finally understand why Obama would belong to such a radical church,’ and ‘Now I finally understand Obama’s true contempt for people of faith regarding his ‘cling to their guns and religion’ remark,” Marks said.
Obama’s website claims that Marks deliberately edited clips of the candidate to make Obama look bad and that the commercials don’t reflect the nature of the speech from which they were taken.
“With such a deceptive person behind this video, it’s not surprising that everything he says about Barack is deeply dishonest and wrong, too,” says the “Fight the Smears” website. “The video takes 5 sentences out of a 4,500-word speech Barack gave in 2006 completely out of context to stoke division and hatred.”
The commercial features edited clips from a speech Sen. Obama made before a conference in Washington, D.C., June 28, 2006. The entire transcript of the speech can be seen here, but the immediate context is as follows:
Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.
And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount – a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.
The group pH for America is a 527 organization – so named for the IRS designation for such groups – created by Marks, a Republican political consultant who also created advertisements criticizing 2004 Democrat candidate John Kerry. The group’s website boasts it “is hoping to become the ‘Swiftboat’ 527 organization of 2008,” referencing the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a 527 organization that created commercials widely credited with contributing to Kerry’s defeat.
Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, told CNN the appeal for money at the end of the pH for America advertisement, rather than an indication of “scamming” or “tricking” people, is common for 527 organizations trying to impress donors.
“Even though an ad buy might be small now, remember, these groups are auditioning right now for late donations to take these ads to a larger scope,” Tracey said. “Remember, the Swift Boat original ad buy was less than $1 million and ran in only a handful of small media markets.”
Marks echoed that strategy in a release announcing the successful purchase of air time for his group’s commercial.
“Unlike other 527 groups who are funded by millionaires, ours has been funded by grass-roots blue-collar voters offended by the side of Barack Obama they see in our ad,” Marks said. “We hope that as more folks see the ad, that we will eventually get help from more affluent contributors.”