Attack ads are among the oldest tools in the political playbook -- and 2014 has seen its share.
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Here are seven of the most controversial ads of 2014:
Candidate: Wendy Davis, Democrat
Race: Texas gubernatorial race
In “Justice,” Democrat Wendy Davis uses a photo of an empty wheelchair to make a political point. Her Republican opponent, Greg Abbott, is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Despite a backlash, Davis defended the ad, which is the most-viewed YouTube video on this list. Abbott brushed off the ad, saying, "if [Davis] wants to attack a guy in a wheelchair, that's her prerogative. As for me, I'm running a different type of campaign."
Sponsoring Organization: National Republican Congressional Committee
Race: Nebraska 2nd Congressional District race
“Nikko” attempts to tie Democratic candidate Brad Ashford to a prison inmate’s quadruple murder while out on early release under Nebraska’s “good time” law. The Ashford campaign called the ad a desperate move from Republicans and the accusations in the ad "baseless." Critics have slammed the ad for supposedly playing up racial stereotypes, and have compared it to the “Willie Horton” ad used against 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. The NRCC fired back by saying the ad sheds light on Ashford's record, and expressed confidence in GOP candidate Lee Terry's campaign.
3. “Largest Ever”
Candidate: Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democrat
Race: Kentucky Senate race
In “Largest Ever,” Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes attempts to set the record straight on her stance on immigration and attacks Sen. Mitch McConnell for voting for “amnesty” for immigrants. The ad is getting flak from liberal groups like Latino Victory Project and MoveOn.org because Grimes uses the term “illegal aliens” to refer to undocumented immigrants. Grimes has not directly responded to their criticism.
4. “Crime Scene”
Candidate: Mark Begich, Democrat
Race: Alaska Senate race
Critics pounced when Sen. Mark Begich used one of the most horrific crimes in Anchorage's history to attack his Republican opponent, Dan Sullivan. The ad cites a case in which an elderly couple was murdered and their 2-year-old granddaughter was sexually assaulted, and blames Sullivan for letting sex offenders get off with what it suggests are short sentences. Begich’s campaign also faced backlash for not taking down the commercial immediately after the family asked it to stop showing it. A spokesman for the Begich campaign said that they had notified the family before running the ad and the family did not seem opposed. After receiving a letter from the family's lawyer, the ad was pulled from air, Begich’s campaign site and Begich’s YouTube page.
5. “Stalker Gap”
Sponsoring Organization: Americans for Responsible Solutions
Race: Arizona 2nd Congressional District race
Sponsored by Gabby Gifford’s PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, this ad tells the story of Vicki, a mother whose husband and daughter were shot by the daughter’s ex-boyfriend, then ends by saying GOP congressional candidate Martha McSally “opposes making it harder for stalkers to buy a gun.” The Arizona Republic called the ad “vile” and a “murder indictment” of McSally. The ad drew further criticism when McSally revealed that she was a victim of stalking. ARS stood by their ad but then then pulled the ad after McSally said she always supported changing the "stalker gap."
6. “Restore Leadership”
Candidate: Allen Weh, Republican
Race: New Mexico Senate race
Weh’s ad seeks to tie his Democratic opponent, Sen. Tom Udall, to Obama’s policies to combat ISIS. Critics deemed the spot offensive because it features a still image, albeit brief, of American journalist James Foley’s executioner. Weh defended the ad, telling ABC News, “That video is rough, but that's the unvarnished truth.”
7. “When the Moment is Right”
Candidate: J.D. Winteregg, Tea Party Republican
Race: Ohio’s 8th Congressional District
In this Cialis spoof, John Boehner’s primary challenger, J.D. Winteregg, attacks the speaker’s many years in Congress, mocks his last name and alleges “electile dysfunction.” The ad got Winteregg noticed but also cost him his job as an adjunct professor at Cedarville University, a Christian college. Although he lost a job and the primary election, Winteregg said he has no regrets about airing the ad.
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