March 21, 2007 -- The presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was rocked by revelations Wednesday night that one of its contracted employees was the creator of a scathing YouTube video against his opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., despite Obama's insistance that he had nothing to do with it.
Phil de Vellis, until Wednesday an employee of the company that handles Obama's Web site, boasted in a posting on the Huffington Post that he made the ad, though he claimed neither the Obama campaign nor his former employer, Blue State Digital -- which does software development and hosting for Obama's campaign -- was aware that he had.
"The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton's 'conversation' is disingenuous," de Vellis wrote of the critical ad that uses an Apple computer TV ad to make Clinton appear like Big Brother. "And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power."
"This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last," de Vellis wrote ominously. "The game has changed."
The admission threatened to besmirch Obama's pledge to run a clean campaign that doesn't attack his opponents, not to mention statements Obama made earlier this week about the ad.
Obama told CNN's Larry King Monday night that "in some ways, it's the democratization of the campaign process. But it's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of, and that frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like this."
Wednesday evening the Obama campaign issued a statement, saying, "The Obama campaign and its employees had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad. We were notified this evening by a vendor of ours, Blue State Digital, that an employee of the company had been involved in the making of this ad. Blue State Digital has separated ties with this individual and we have been assured he did no work on our campaign's account."
It also provided a statement from Thomas Gensemer, managing director of Blue State Digital, which explained, "Pursuant to company policy regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise, Mr. de Vellis has been terminated from Blue State Digital effective immediately … Mr. de Vellis created this video on his own time. It was done without the knowledge of management, and was in no way tied to his work at the firm or our formal engagement with the Obama campaign."
Gensemer said he spoke with Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to tell him what had happened and that de Vellis had been fired.
The Clinton campaign had no comment, but asked for her feelings about the ad, Clinton herself told NY1 cable that she hadn't seen it but added, "I'm pleased that it seems to be taking attention away from what used to be on YouTube and getting a lot of hits, namely me singing 'The Star Spangled Banner.' Everybody in the world now knows I can't carry a tune. I thank heaven for small favors and the attention has shifted, and now maybe people won't have to tune in and hear me screeching about 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"
Since its debut, the anti-Clinton '1984' mock Apple ad has been viewed well over a million times on YouTube's popular video-sharing site.