Willie Horton Redux: GOP "Stoke[s] Subliminal Racist Fears" in Tennessee

Alessandra Stanley writes that an RNC ad mocking Harold Ford Jr. is "seen as racist" and that the GOP "tried to stoke subliminal racist fears with the infamous Willie Horton ad...."

The Times can't get enough of the RNC's ad mocking Tennessee Democrat Harold Ford Jr., running for Senate against Republican Bob Corker. The front page of Sunday's Week in Review featured a "TV Watch" column by television-beat reporter Alessandra Stanley, "Scary, Like Funny Scary."

"The much-seen Tennessee ad against Harold Ford Jr. placed by the Republican National Committee in support of his opponent, Bob Corker, was seen as racist."

"Seen as racist" by liberals and the Times, that is.

"It featured a bare-shouldered blond party girl coaxing Mr. Ford, who is African-American, to 'call me.' When Republican strategists in 1988 tried to stoke subliminal racist fears with the infamous Willie Horton ad, the message was deadly serious. This spot is anything but: The G.O.P went with a 'Daily Show'-style send-up of conventional negative ads."

Stanley doesn't explain the context of the "party girl" reference (Ford, who often campaigns in churches and talks about his religion, attended a Playboy party during last year's Super Bowl celebrations).

Stanley's rant about "racist fears" of Willie Horton tracks with the paranoid liberal view of the controversial 1988 campaign ad, which attacked the Massachusetts governorship of Democrat candidate Michael Dukakis for letting out a convicted murderer on furlough, where he then assaulted a couple, knifing the man and raping his fiance. Dukakis later defended the furlough program.

Stanley even goes after Corker's 18-year-old daughter (so much for the media's protection of political kids during Chelsea Clinton's coming of age).

"Mr. Corker's own biographical ads gauzily showcase his conservative family, yet even he seems determined to assure voters he is no square. 'After 20 years, he still makes me laugh,' Mrs. Corker says tenderly. In another one, his 18-year-old daughter, Julia, says of her father, 'I think he's hilarious.'

"Mr. Corker was undoubtedly less amusing around the house when pictures of Julia kissing a girl on the lips at a college party on Facebook.com began whipping around cyberspace: one of the perils of 21st-century technology is that those who live by the Internet can die by the Internet."