WASHINGTON -- Actor Morgan Freeman is denying that he provided the narration for a Republican candidate's political ad, saying that the campaign lied by claiming that he did.
"These people are lying," said Freeman in a statement sent to The Huffington Post. "I have never recorded any campaign ads for B.J. Lawson and I do not support his candidacy. And, no one who represents me ever has ever authorized the use of my name, voice or any other likeness in support of Mr. Lawson or his candidacy."
Lawson is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. David Price in North Carolina's fourth congressional district. The ad in question is titled, "What is David Price Afraid Of?"
On Monday, the Lawson campaign put out a press release confirming Freeman's participation in the ad and said that the actor was paid for his work.
"Barbara Streisand wouldn't do it this, but Morgan Freeman doesn't have a problem cutting ads against Washington insiders or he wouldn't do it," said Lawson campaign manager Martin Avila. "People shouldn't be so shocked that someone like Mr. Freeman would think outside of the left-right red vs. blue dynamic. This election IS about regular people asking basic questions."
The Lawson campaign did not immediately respond to The Huffington Post's request for a response.
The Price campaign is calling on Lawson to immediately pull down his ads and apologize. "This is an unfortunate and desperate attempt to fool voters in the last hours of a campaign," read a statement by the campaign. "By using Mr. Freeman's good name, BJ Lawson has ruined his own, and he should be ashamed. Now the voters will decide whom they trust."
UPDATE, 5:24 p.m.: This is not the first time there has been controversy over an ad narrated by "Morgan Freeman." Recently, Wisconsin GOP gubernatorial candidate used an actor that sounded very much like Freeman to narrate one of its ads. The Awl wondered whether there was an intention by the campaign to knowingly mislead voters about the voiceover.
UPDATE, 8:36 p.m.: The Lawson campaign issued a press release Monday evening, saying it had "been tricked by a political mercenary based out of California."
"This is terribly unfortunate and we apologize profusely to Morgan Freeman for what has happened. This is obviously not something we ever would want to misrepresent. Once we found out that our contracted advertisement was not narrated by Morgan Freeman, we immediately pulled our ads. Our campaign is comprised almost entirely of volunteers and we were presented with an opportunity to make a great ad -- unfortunately these political mercenaries completely misrepresented their offering and contract with us to take our money," said B.J. Lawson.
"Through many conversations we referenced Mr. Freeman based upon our signed contract for a Morgan Freeman radio commercial. We thought it was a great opportunity to put together a nice message," said Martin Avila, Lawson's campaign manager. "It's unfortunate that would misrepresent their offering like this just to make some quick money."
UPDATE, 9:42 p.m.: The Huffington Post received a copy of the Lawson campaign's contract with M.E.I. Political, which produced the ad, and it agreed to a "Morgan Freeman radio commercial." However, Ben Mathis of M.E.I. said that Lawson knew all along what was happening:
"I made it very clear to B.J. in our conversation and via email that this was a voice double for Morgan Freeman," he said. "They cannot go around promoting this as if it's Morgan Freeman or a Morgan Freeman endorsement."
"In conversation, I told him - as I would tell anyone - that you cannot go around telling people that it's Morgan Freeman," Mathis said. "I didn't expect that he was going to be going around telling people that this is Morgan Freeman. Perhaps he didn't understand why he couldn't do that."
UPDATE, 11/2, 10:32 a.m.: In an Oct. 12 e-mail to Lawson, M.E.I. Political made clear that Freeman would not actually be doing the ad. "I'll also have the personal voice double[s] for Morgan Freeman (and others)...in studio recording ads for us," read the e-mail. "A voice double is the person hired by a celebrity to do 'voice matching' for the celeb when they are unavailable to re-record audio in post on a project. The audience never notices the difference. It's one of those little secrets of Hollywood. We've used them with great success in political ads. We of course never say that they are the actual celebrity."
UPDATE, 11/2, 10:40 a.m.: HuffPost reader Bill Clay sent along a photo of Lawson's Facebook page, in which he specifically told readers that Morgan Freeman did indeed narrate the ad. View it here.
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