North Carolina TV stations took the unusual step Friday to pull an attack ad against Cheri Beasley, a Democratic Senate candidate, after complaints that the ad falsely accused Ms Beasley of freeing a convicted man for possessing obscene images of children while she served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The ad, made by the Republican Senate’s campaign arm, highlighted the case of a “child pornography offender” and accused Ms Beasley of “voting to free him”. A narrator spoke ominously of images of a young girl and prison bars opening.
On Friday, five Raleigh and Charlotte TV stations said they would either pull the ad or “suspend” it pending a review of his claims, according to emails from the stations to Courtney Weisman, a lawyer working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. , which were reviewed by The New York Times.
On Thursday, two Charlotte stations took the ad off the air. A representative for the stations, WXAN and WSCO, explained in an email to Ms Weisman that the ad’s claim about Ms Beasley ‘is erroneous, as it appears the defendant has not been released’ by the ruling. of the State Supreme Court.
Chris Hartline, a spokesman for the Republican National Senate Committee, which made the announcement, defended the allegations against Ms Beasley and said the Charlotte stations that took action on Thursday had not asked to see any documentation before make the decision.
“Every word of the ad is true,” Hartline said in a statement. “This bizarre statement from a TV station that had not yet received or even requested our substantiation of the allegation will be noted by our media buyers when making future decisions regarding ad purchases.”
Dory MacMillan, spokesperson for Ms Beasley, said: ‘Republicans in Washington have been caught lying.’
“Voters know that Cheri has worked with law enforcement to hold violent offenders accountable, and she will continue to keep our communities safe as the next U.S. Senator from North Carolina,” MacMillan said in a statement. communicated. Ms Beasley is running against Rep. Ted Budd, the Republican nominee, in a race for an open seat that is important in determining Senate control.
The advert in question, titled ‘Failed Our Children’, links Ms Beasley to three cases involving child sex offenders. The attack on Ms Beasley, who is black, recalls attacks by Senate Republicans on Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson during her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. The senators, led by Josh Hawley of Missouri, accused her of being soft on sentencing in child pornography cases. A review by PolitiFact concluded that Judge Jackson’s sentences were consistent with those of other judges.
The case that led to the removal of the North Carolina ad involved a man named James Howard Terrell Jr., who was convicted in 2016 of possessing obscene images of minors on a USB drive.
An appeals court ruled that a detective conducted an unlawful search of the USB drive, in violation of Mr. Terrell’s Fourth Amendment rights, and sent the case back to the trial court.
In 2019, the state Supreme Court, with Ms Beasley in the majority, confirmed this decision. As of May 2020, Mr. Terrell was still in jail, according to court records, and it was on this basis that Ms. Weisman, the Democratic attorney, requested that the ad be taken down. “To claim that his vote somehow resulted in an accused being ‘set free… free’ is false,” she wrote.
A lawyer for the Republican campaign arm, in a letter to TV stations about the announcement, argued that North Carolina court records for Mr. Terrell indicate his convictions were “overturned” after the Supreme Court heard the case. The attorney, Ryan G. Dollar, accused the Democratic attorney of trying to “gaslight” TV executives. Court records indicate that Mr. Terrell is no longer incarcerated.