Conservative kingmaker turned super PAC mastermind Karl Rove criticized President Obama's business acumen yesterday with a new ad titled "Build," the latest attack ad from the American Crossroads super PAC. But the ad has come under scrutiny for its use of stock footage alongside interviews with legitimate small business owners.
The new ad features a series of Americans identified as small business owners who each express outrage at comments the President made in Roanoke, Va., on July 13, featuring the now infamous line, "If you've got a business -- you didn't build that." Fox News ran with the sound bite, and a new conservative talking point was born -- ostensibly that Obama doesn't respect the efforts of small business owners.
The business people featured in "Build" are generally verifiable: Ginger Gillespie's Twitter identifies her as a voiceover artist and music teacher, for example. John Heinrich runs a small business information website in Arizona. However, 38 seconds into the piece, a Paul Bunyan-esque male cashier appears in a red plaid shirt and green apron.
Further investigation by the Rachel Maddow blog revealed that this mystery businessman is actually an actor featured heavily on iStockphoto's video section.
The man is seen in a video, file no. 20523456, titled "Mother and child in Grocery shop paying with credit card." He can also be found as a shopping parent, in video file no. 20523508, "Father and son in Grocery shop paying with credit card." In a final option, the man apparently marries the customer-turned-cashier and the two open up an organic shop together and add another adorable, organic orange-loving child for the idyllic "Portrait of Family Business owners in organic shop," file no. 20522947.
The creation and production of attack ads is now serious business, and many of the most memorable ads feature candid pictures of the candidates in question. An image of John Kerry windsurfing, for example, was used to illustrate his "flip-flopping" rhetoric.
But using actors in negative political ads is less common, according to The New York Times, let alone easily identifiable stock footage or out of context images.
A conservative group called Public Advocate of the United States was sued recently when it used a New Jersey same-sex couple's engagement photo in attack ads used in at least two Colorado primary races. Brian Edwards and Tom Privitere told the Denver Post they had never given permission for the image to be used in the ads.
While the Obama campaign has yet to comment on the use of stock footage in the "Build" video, the Democratic National Committee has announced plans to step up its response to the "you didn't build that" attacks.
Talking Points Memo reported that DNC spokesperson Brad Woodhouse emailed an outline of the pushback plan to reporters Tuesday night, which will include on-the-ground events as well as a national conference call targeting what the DNC refers to as Governor Mitt Romney’s “failed record and failed policies” on small business “as well as President Obama’s record as a consistent advocate for small businesses.”