HELENA – The Montana Democratic Party decided Thursday to modify a political ad attacking Republican attorney general candidate Tim Fox after TV stations refused to air it over concerns the ad may have been inaccurate.
The advertisement, scheduled to air Thursday morning, claimed “Fox was let go from three jobs for poor performance.” The Republicans said the claim was false, and provided letters from the employers disputing the Democrats’ assertion.
KTVQ of Billings said it told the Democrats on Thursday morning that it would not be airing the ad due to the claim. Other stations followed KTVQ’s lead.
“We did not accept the original version for air, and we let them know immediately that it was a problem,” said KTVQ General Manager Monty Wallis. “They decided to change it, and it was the right thing to do.”
Although the Democrats decided to remove the claim from the ad, the party believes the original ad was truthful, said spokesman Kevin O’Brien.
The party also modified an allegation over Fox’s past legal representation of drunken drivers. O’Brien said that move was made to head off a complaint on the issue and make sure the advertisement got on TV.
The Montana Republican Party still believes the new advertisement, accepted by the television stations, is “character assassination,” and it is renewing its objection to the advertisement, said GOP spokesman Bridger Pierce.
Wallis said he would look at documentation on Friday that was being provided by the GOP to back up the renewed claims.
Television stations are required by law to make sure third-party advertisements, such as the one from the Democrats, do not contain factual errors.
Wallis said there are cases nearly every campaign season where advertisements are changed before they can be aired.
The attorney general race is one of the most highly contested in the state this year.
Democrats have poured money into attack ads helping their candidate, Steve Bullock, and the Republicans have done the same for Fox.
The Democrats have tried to portray Fox as inexperienced and untrustworthy, while Republicans have tried to paint Bullock as soft on sex offenders and the death penalty.
A recent Montana State-Billings poll showed Bullock leading Fox 45 percent to 38 percent with 17 percent of voters undecided. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points.
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