12/02/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Dirtiest, Most Reprehensible Ads Of The Cycle (VIDEO)

It is tradition in every campaign for each side to denounce the other as having run the sleaziest race in modern political history. And certainly it seems like every day brings with it a new attack ad deemed "the worst one yet."

While historians are generally skittish when it comes to such claims - pointing out that past years witnessed some serious mudslinging of their own - it is hard to dismiss just how dirty and/or memorable some of the attack ads have been this election cycle.

Many times it is an outside group carrying the baton. On several occasions the notably nasty or remarkable stuff is aired during a Congressional race. Often the charges reek of sexism, racism, and ageism. Almost always they distort records or cross ethical lines. Sometimes, they are just stupid or funny.

Either way, for the political masochists here is a compendium of the greatest, or... worst, hits list of advertisements aired during the 2008 election cycle.


The McCain campaign puts out a lengthy ad going after Obama for being "friends" with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers. There are many spots just like this that McCain and fellow Republicans will release before and after. This one takes the prize because it goes into long detail about Ayer's past as a member of the Weather Underground as if Obama was someone connected to it.

The Obama campaign puts out an ad accusing John McCain of being computer illiterate. There is some debate over whether this was a foot-in-the-mouth moment (McCain's war injuries make it difficult for him to type). Even Sen. Joe Biden pans the ad.

The RNC and McCain campaign put out a web ad that suggests Obama is more concerned with the interest of hostile Middle East nations than with America. The spot, in an effort to tie the Illinois Democrat closer to the region, places his picture above a map of the Middle East and features music similar to that heard during the traditional Muslim prayer.

National Republican Trust Fund, an outside group with ties to GOP strategist Dick Morris, runs a spot that claims Obama's plan to grant licenses to illegal immigrants could lead to another 9/11. This might not even qualify as the group's most inflammatory spot.


Needing a game-changer before the Texas and Ohio primaries, the Clinton campaign puts out the now famous 3 A.M. tackling Obama's capacity to handle a late-in-the-night crisis.

Mike Huckabee's ad on the eve of Christmas that contains what appears to be a floating cross in the background. The former governor said the spot was meant to bring in the Holiday cheer - a reprieve of sorts, from the negative advertising. But critics say it is religious exploitation.

Days before the Iowa primary, Huckabee says he will not air a negative ad against Mitt Romney as a sign that he is above that kind of politicking. Only, he calls a press conference to announce his move and promptly shows members of the media the ad he would have aired.


Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) runs an ad accusing her opponent Kay Hagan of hanging around a crowd of "godless" individuals who want to push an atheist agenda through Congress. Hagan files a defamation suit in response.

Days after Norm Coleman disavows negative ads, the National Republican Senatorial Committee runs a spot against his opponent, Al Franken, accusing the former comedian of writing pornography, laughing at the disabled, humiliating minorities and demeaning women.


The National Republican Congressional Committee runs an ad in Minnesota that local officials suggest distorts the skin color of the Democratic candidate for the seat, Ashwin Madia. Madia is a child of East Indian immigrants and a veteran of the Marines.

Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery, running for a Kansan Senate seat, runs an ad that shows a business tycoon showering yellow liquid all over the small people below him. Viewers are led to believe he is peeing on them. It's really just gasoline.


The Long Island-based Opinion Access Corporation puts out a telephone survey - for who, we don't know - that, under the disguise of public research, asks recipients if they knew that Obama's "spiritual adviser said American brought the 2001 attacks on itself," and had "voted against requiring schools to install monitoring software for pornography."

The Republican Jewish Coalition puts out a push poll that asks voters to respond to revelations that Obama received praise from the leader of Hamas and had a friendship with a pro-Palestinian professor.

The Republican National Committee and McCain campaign put out a robocall narrated by Rudy Giuliani that suggests Obama opposed jailing murderers and rapists.

A Republican women's group sends out a newsletter depicting Barack Obama as some furry animal surrounded by watermelon and a bucket of fried chicken.

A Republican group reportedly launches a robocall effort that makes it seem as if a gay-rights group is effusively praising the extremely liberal agenda of Mandy Powers Norrell, a state Senate candidate.

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