NRSC Severs Ties With Jamestown After ‘Hickey’ Flap

Posted October 14, 2010 at 4:10pm

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has fired the GOP media consulting firm Jamestown Associates after learning that the company misled the NRSC regarding its role in the making of a controversial independent expenditure ad that aired in West Virginia.

The NRSC and Mountain State Republican Senate nominee John Raese were criticized last week by Democrats and their Senate nominee, Gov. Joe Manchin, for the tenor of a television ad that featured actors playing the role of blue-collar West Virginians discussing whom they were going to vote for Nov. 2. In particular, Democrats and Manchin attacked Republicans for the casting call, which asked for “hickey” characters wearing old trucker hats and plaid shirts, saying it was insulting and unfairly stereotyped West Virginians.

The story was first reported by Politico, and the NRSC pushed back, saying that neither the committee nor its consultant had anything to do with the casting call, and that the words used were from the casting agent in charge of finding actors for the ad. However, Jamestown on Thursday acknowledged that it lied to the NRSC and was responsible for the casting call and the descriptions, including the word “hickey.”

“A private communication in an email to the talent agency from an independent contractor we hired to organize production apparently used the term ‘hickey’ to describe the look for the actors needed for a television spot,” Jamestown said in a prepared statement released through the NRSC. “The talent agency copied this email and sent it to the actors and their agents. This email from the talent agency was subsequently leaked by someone to the press. We apologize for any embarrassment this may have caused to any of the parties and have resigned from the account.”

The NRSC said in a statement of its own that it has cut ties with Jamestown and will not use the company in any other race in this or future election cycles. That decision would presumably hold at least as long as Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) remains chairman of the committee.

“This morning, the NRSC learned that our vendor Jamestown Associates was responsible for the offensive language surrounding our independent expenditure ad in West Virginia. When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language and we took them at their word. Upon learning these facts this morning, the NRSC immediately fired Jamestown Associates,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said.

“Because we did not know the truth, we have made incorrect statements over the last eight days, and we regret doing so,” Walsh continued. “The NRSC unequivocally denounces the offensive language that Jamestown Associates used in producing this ad. We apologize to any West Virginia voter who may have been offended by this firm’s actions, and we extend our apologies to Kathy Wickline and all those who were misled as a result of Jamestown Associates’ actions. The NRSC will have no further dealings, now or ever, with Jamestown Associates, but they were our vendor and we take responsibility for this unfortunate matter.” Wickline is the casting agent who found the actors for the ad.

Meanwhile, the dust-up doesn’t appear to have had a measurable effect on the West Virginia Senate race. Raese had been surging and taken a significant lead over Manchin on the strength of his message warning that the governor would be a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama should he advance to the Senate.

Manchin has since regained some momentum, but only after running television ads promising to repeal parts of the health care law and oppose Obama’s cap-and-trade energy policy. Both items are major issues in the West Virginia Senate contest, which is a special election to determine who will serve the last two years of the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s (D) current term.