GOP apologizes after ‘hicky’ ad casting agent cries cover-up

By Muriel Kane
Thursday, October 14, 2010 14:23 EDT
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When a controversy erupted last week over a political ad being run on behalf of the Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia, the call for ‘hicky’ actors to appear in the ad was initially blamed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on the Philadelphia talent agency that had put out the casting call.

“We are going for a ‘Hicky’ Blue Collar look,” the call read, according to Politico. “These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks.”

But after the agent who recruited the actors charged that she was being blamed unfairly for the ‘hicky’ language and was the victim of a political cover-up, the NRSC quickly acknowledged that the fault lay with its production company, Jamestown Associates

“She cut and pasted the language [from a production company hired by the NRSC], and they’ve thrown her under the bus,” talent agent Kathy Wickline’s lawyer told Politico on Thursday.

“Unfortunately, over the last seven days, people who know better – who know the truth — have allowed the role of Kathy Wickline Casting to be misconstrued and misrepresented,” a press release from the lawyer added. “They have not told the public what they know.”

Mike Allen’s Politico article, which had initially featured Wickline’s accusations, was repeatedly rewritten on Thursday as fresh information emerged.

According to Politico, “The NRSC has now fired consulting firm Jamestown Associates and has apologized to West Virginia voters, saying that its officials had unknowingly made ‘inaccurate statements’ when the controversy first arose.”

“When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language, and we took them at their word,” the NRSC said in a statement. “Upon learning these facts this morning, the NRSC immediately fired Jamestown Associates.”

“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,” NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh stated. “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.”

The controversy began a week ago, after Democrats provided the casting material to Politico. Democratic candidate Joe Manchin quickly blasted his Republican opponent in a statement saying, “John Raese and his special interest friends have insulted the people of West Virginia and need to immediately apologize. Not only have they been spending millions to try and buy this election with lies and distortions, we can now see once and for all what he and his friends really think of West Virginia and our people.”

At the time, the NRSC indicated it was not to blame for the casting language, providing Politico with an email to the talent agency in which it said merely, “Looking for someone to represent the middle of the country… Ohio, Pittsburgh, West Virginia area.”

According to UPI, “NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh said the casting call was written by consulting firm Jamestown Associates.” Walsh went on, however, to lay the blame on Wickline, insisting, “No one at the NRSC, or associated with the NRSC, had anything to do with the language used in this casting call. We do not support it, and suffice to say, we would encourage our contractors to never work with this outside agency again.”

On Thursday, however, Wickline’s lawyer released an e-mail to Wickline from Jamestown that included the call for ‘hicky’ looks. “That email – sent by Jamestown Associates to Kathy Wickline – contained the language in question,” the lawyer emphasized in a news release; “Indeed, it contained, word for word, the information and language that Kathy simply forwarded as the ‘booking sheet’ for the commercial in question six minutes later.”

Jamestown Associates, for its part, has now issued a statement saying, “A private communication in an email to the talent agency from an independent contractor we hired to organize production apparently used the term ‘hicky’ to describe the look for the actors needed for a television spot. 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.”

Jamestown Associates is a prominent political consulting firm that has represented a wide range of Republican candidates and third-party groups, including the US Chamber of Commerce and Freedom’s Watch.

Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane
Muriel Kane is an associate editor at Raw Story. She joined Raw Story as a researcher in 2005, with a particular focus on the Jack Abramoff affair and other Bush administration scandals. She worked extensively with former investigative news managing editor Larisa Alexandrovna, with whom she has co-written numerous articles in addition to her own work. Prior to her association with Raw Story, she spent many years as an independent researcher and writer with a particular focus on history, literature, and contemporary social and political attitudes. Follow her on Twitter at @Muriel_Kane
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