Christine O'Donnell Angered When TV Ad Fails to Run

10:03 AM, Nov 2, 2010   |    comments
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Wilmington (Del.) News Journal

Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and her campaign lashed out at a local cable channel in Delaware for failing to air a 30-minute documentary-style advertisement Sunday night and Monday morning.

But after some confusion about the paid advertising was cleared up, the O'Donnell campaign apologized "for any misunderstanding that has transpired."

O'Donnell had told supporters the half-hour "television outreach" video would air at 11:30 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. on Channel 28 in New Castle County and WBOC-TV in Kent and Sussex counties.

But Tim Qualls, the television producer who sold the O'Donnell campaign the air time, says he never agreed to run the video ad late Sunday night on the Comcast channel, which he leases time on.

"I never promised her that. That's when I run 'The Tim Qualls Show' and I don't bump that for anybody," Qualls said.

When it became apparent this morning that the paid advertising wasn't airing during the 10 a.m. time slot, O'Donnell posted a message on Twitter via text message airing her frustration.

Dirty politics again? I'd like to think the County run station really did just "forget" even though we reminded them this morning.

It began airing at 3 p.m. on Channel 28. In a statement posted on Facebook at 2:56 p.m., O'Donnell spokesman Doug Sachtleben "very disappointed that an ad, which the campaign paid for last week, was not aired as scheduled."

At about 3 p.m. Monday, Qualls told The News Journal he just received a check for $2,500 shortly before getting the ad on the air. It is scheduled to run again at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday on Channel 28.

Qualls said he agreed last Thursday to air the 30-minute video and instructed the O'Donnell campaign that he needed the video tape by the end of the day Friday to air it Monday morning. That's because the Comcast studio is closed on the weekends and doesn't open until 3 p.m. on Mondays, Qualls said.

Qualls also said he needed the video by the close of business hours on Friday because he had to go to Balitmore for the weekend to visit his cancer-stricken wife at John Hopkins Hospital.

"The whole problem was they just didn't get the tape to me. They threw me under the bus, making me sit here and answer calls all day," said Qualls, who has fielded phone calls from national news organizations all day about the flap after O'Donnell's tweet.

An O'Donnell campaign staff member delivered the tape sometime after 6 p.m. Sunday to the home a Channel 28 employee, Qualls said.

Qualls, executive producer of Positive Promotions Studios in Christiana, leases programming access on Channel 28 from Comcast and sells advertising and programming during those time slots.

"I could have very well told them to stick it and I'm not running anything now," Qualls added. "I went ahead, bent over backwards and got her on."

Still, O'Donnell's campaign speculated that the ad didn't run on purpose. In a statement, Sachtleben said:

"It's still unclear as to why the local cable channel failed to air the half-hour long special. Our hope is that this is not another case of the liberal media or political dirty tricks trying to silence Christine's message to the voters of Delaware."

Qualls also noted Comcast's channel is not a public access station and not run by New Castle County, as O'Donnell said in her tweet.

"It has nothing to do with the county. It's an independent channel that anyone can buy" ad space on, Qualls said.

O'Donnell faces New Castle County Executive Chris Coons, a Democrat, in Tuesday's special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Joe Biden when he became vice president in January 2009.

Qualls, a registered Republican, said he voted for O'Donnell in the Sept. 14 Republican primary.

"But I'm kind of weighing my vote now," Qualls said.

By 4 p.m. Monday, O'Donnell spokesman Doug Sachtleben released a toned-down and apologetic statement, thanking Qualls for getting the ad on the air amidst the pre-election confusion:

"The half-hour long special from the O'Donnell campaign was not aired as scheduled on Sunday night and Monday morning. Delaware 28 Executive Producer Tim Qualls explained to the campaign that he was out of the area for the weekend because of a family illness, and was apparently unaware of the campaign's transaction last Friday between a local third-party buyer and Channel 28 employees.

"Mr. Qualls is being incredibly cooperative now that he finally understands the situation, and we cannot thank him enough for helping us get Christine's message out to the voters of Delaware. We are sincerely sorry for any misunderstanding that has transpired and that may have added stress to his family situation.

"The Christine O'Donnell television ad is expected to air on Delaware 28 tonight at 6 PM and 6:30 PM, and again Tuesday at 10 AM and 3 PM ET. The campaign is also seeking broadcast opportunities into Delaware through Philadelphia and Salisbury, MD television stations."

The video chronicles O'Donnell's grassroots campaign, interviewing supporters who talk about the problems they face at their businesses, farms and medical practices. Among the doctors featured in the video are Dr. Janis Chester, a psychiatrist at Bayhealth Medical Center, and Dr. Bryan McCarthy, an anesthesiologist at the Dover hospital.

Dr. Christopher Casscells of Greenville is the only Delawarean in the video identified by their first and last name.

Casscells, an orthopedic surgeon who runs his own private practice, said the federal health insurance reform legislation may put him out of business. O'Donnell has vowed to repeal the legislation.

"I may end up being forced to work for a hospital. I may end up being forced to work for the government in one capacity or another. I may be forced into retirement. I may simply not be able to change the way I care for my patients," Casscells said in the video.

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