Village People Used in GOP Senator’s Anti-Gay Spot
A tight race for Trent Lott’s old U.S. Senate seat is getting nasty, with the Republican incumbent slamming his Democratic challenger in a television ad that uses actors dressed like the Village People to represent a gay rights group.
Republican Roger Wicker and Democratic former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove are longtime friends who shared an apartment while serving together in the state Legislature. They’re competing in a Nov. 4 special election to fill the final four years of Lott’s term in heavily Republican Mississippi.
Lott retired last December to become a lobbyist, and Republican Gov. Haley Barbour moved Wicker from the U.S. House to replace him temporarily.
Republicans want to keep the seat that’s been theirs since Lott first won it in 1988. Democrats hope significant turnout for presidential candidate Barack Obama will boost Musgrove.
The 30-second spot, which is not posted on Wicker’s campaign site but can be viewed on YouTube, portrays Musgrove as beholden to liberal interest groups and shows an actor playing a Democratic operative taking campaign cash. The ad was paid for by Wicker’s campaign and started running this week in local television markets.
Musgrove’s campaign called it a "desperate political trick" and said Musgrove has never taken money from the groups depicted, which include the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the Human Rights Campaign PAC, a gay rights group.
Those groups have, however, contributed to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is running ads on behalf of Musgrove and other candidates nationwide.
"We just thought it would be in good fun to show Mississippians who’s paying for these ads," Wicker campaign spokesman Ryan Annison said Wednesday.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee also is pumping money into the race on Wicker’s behalf.
Musgrove’s campaign manager, Tim Phillips, said Musgrove has a long record of opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.
"Roger Wicker must think Mississippians are pretty dumb," he said.
The Human Rights Campaign PAC is represented in the ad by one man dressed as a cowboy and another in black leather in the style of the 1970s disco group the Village People.
The ad also touches on a scandal left over from Musgrove’s time as governor. It ends with the Democratic operative taking money from a costumed cow, representing the Mississippi Beef Processors LLC plant that opened and closed during Musgrove’s tenure.
Two executives of the company that designed and built the beef plant pleaded guilty this year to giving Musgrove an illegal $25,000 "gratuity" during his 2003 gubernatorial re-election campaign. Musgrove, who has not been accused of wrongdoing in the case, has said repeatedly that he had no direct oversight over the beef plant project.