The agency that created an ad featuring a voice that sounded like Morgan Freeman is firing back after a North Carolina candidate said he was tricked by the company.
The MEI company released a statement (.pdf) Tuesday explaining that B.J. Lawson (R-NC) was told that a "voice double" for Morgan Freeman would be used in the ad they were creating for him.
The Lawson campaign had claimed Tuesday that the voice in one of their ads was in fact that of the Oscar winner. "In response to numerous queries and enthusiastic feedback, the Lawson for Congress campaign confirms that its latest radio and TV ad is indeed narrated by actor Morgan Freeman," according to press release from the campaign.
In a statement, Freeman quickly denied making the ad or supporting Lawson.
"These people are lying," Freeman wrote. "I have never recorded any campaign ads for B.J. Lawson and I do not support his candidacy. And, no one who represents me ever has ever authorized the use of my name, voice or any other likeness in support of Mr. Lawson or his candidacy."
Writing on his website, Lawson apologized to Freeman and said they had been tricked by the advertising company.
"Our campaign is comprised almost entirely of volunteers and we were presented with an opportunity to make a great ad -- unfortunately these political mercenaries completely misrepresented their offering and contract with us to take our money," Lawson wrote.
In their statement, MEI Political said that Lawson should have known better.
"Both verbally and in writing, we made it clear to the Lawson campaign that this is not Morgan Freeman, but instead it is Mr. Freeman’s voice double. We also informed the campaign that even though the ad was similar to Morgan Freeman in style or tone, the campaign should not represent it as the actor Morgan Freeman or as an endorsement by Mr. Freeman. In a phone conversation with Mr. Lawson, we further discussed the fact that the actor Morgan Freeman is Democrat and would probably never do an endorsement ad for a Republican Congressional campaign," wrote Benjamin Mathis.
Mathis provided emails to Politico that appear to back up his statement.
I'll also have the personal voice doubles for Morgan Freeman, William Shatner, Donald Sutherland, Sam Elliott, Queen Latifah, John Goodman, and Ray Romano in studio cutting ads for us. A voice double is the person hired by a celebrity to do "voice matching" for the celeb when they are unavailable to re-record audio in post on a project. The audience never notices the difference. It's one of those little secrets of Hollywood. We've used them with great success in political ads. We of course never say that they are the actual celebrity, but voters recogniza their voice and trust it.
Would you like for me to have any of those record a radio or tv spot for you? I think you'll find that these celebrity endorsement ads have proven to be big game changers in past races especially when released in the final weeks of the race. They ad a lot of class to a campaign and people trust a voice or face they know. It also generates a lot of earned media. You can go to our website at www.meipolitical.com to check out some of our celebrity radio and tv ads from past campaigns.
Lawson's campaign manager, Martin Avila, told WRAL News that he stands behind the claim that they were duped.
"We just showed all our counsel everything, and they’re actually recommending that we go with some sort of criminal inquiry, at this point, because it’s just completely all over the road with all his claims," Avila said.
"We were just duped. We were tricked. It’s really unfortunate," he said.
Lawson is attempting to unseat Democrat David Price in North Carolina's Fourth District.
Video of the ad featuring the Morgan Freeman voice double follows.
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