Election 2012
5:20 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

More Antics Over Anti-McCrory Ad

The Pat McCrory Campaign for Governor is now asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit over an attack ad the campaign itself claimed was false and defamatory.

The irony is this was a fight the McCrory campaign seemed to want back in May when it sent cease and desist letters to TV stations airing an attack ad from a liberal group called North Carolina Citizens for Progress.

The ad says McCrory "used his position as mayor to lobby state government for millions in tax breaks" for a company called Tree.com.  But the ad also gives the misleading impression McCrory was on Tree.com's board at the same time.

NC Citizens for Progress quietly tweaked the ad to clarify that McCrory didn't join the Tree.com board until several years after he sent that letter.

The McCrory campaign quietly dropped its threats to sue.

But NC Citizens for Progress went a step further and filed a lawsuit asking a judge to declare the ad truthful and force McCrory's campaign to back up its complaints.

In a hearing this week, attorneys for the McCrory campaign asked the judge to dismiss the whole thing. What's the point? says McCrory spokesman Brian Nick.

"This was an ad that ran before Memorial Day," says Nick, noting the ad is already off the air.  "Months after the fact we're just gonna go in and discuss whether something's right - have a 'he said, she said with a political hack?' I mean that makes no sense."

The response from Michael Weisel - general counsel for NC Citizens for Progress is basically "What are you afraid of?"

"If you believe this is libelous and slanderous, then let's go ahead and have a lawsuit about it," says Weisel.

The truth is, libel lawsuits over attack ads are very hard for campaigns to win. But often just the threat of one is enough to make TV stations nervous about airing an ad. That happened twice with the Tree.com ad - which is precisely why Weisel wants a judge to decide once and for all if it's true.

The McCrory Campaign is satisfied the ad is no longer airing. . . except NC Citizens for Progress purchased a small amount of air time to run it in Charlotte this week.

McCrory spokesman Brian Nick says it's too small an ad buy to worry about.

A judge will rule on whether to dismiss the lawsuit in the coming days.