Smile Politely

Alleged anonymous ad uses racism and sexism to promote candidate

If you’ve been following local politics, you’ll know that the race for county clerk is very tight. Matt Grandone (R), the protégé of current Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten (R), is running to replace Hulten. Urbana alderman Aaron Ammons (D) is running against Grandone.

Now, less than a week out from election day, a new something troublesome has happened.

Apparently there is a radio ad currently or previously being aired by WDWS, the station owned and operated by The News-Gazette, that is promoting Matt Grandone for County Clerk by asking “what Aaron Ammons has done except mop floors and clean toilets.”

I have not heard the audio of this ad. Smile Politely reached out to WDWS-WHMS-WKIO, the station(s) that aired it, to request the audio of the advertisement. The station said they “do not distribute copies of commercials to anyone other than the actual candidate.”

We reached out to Grandone via email and he said this:

No, my campaign did not record, produce, approve, condone, pay or have anything to do with this ad.

We asked if he had a statement on the matter:

My statement is that as soon as I was made aware of the ad (and honestly I still haven’t even heard the ad in it’s entirety). I called WDWS/NG to see if it could be taken down as it uses my name without my authorization and was told that was not an option. I’ve spent the last 14 months talking about about my experience working in the Clerk’s Office and anything that isn’t driving home that message is just distracting from what we’re trying to get across to voters. [sic]

His Facebook page posted this response:

I find this response troubling for a number of reasons. Grandone has not acknowledged the content of the message as racist, sexist, and classist. He doesn’t “condone” the message because his campaign didn’t create it.

He is (presumably) upset that the ad “uses [his] name without [his] authorization” and “distracts” from his message of experience in the County Clerk’s office.

“I asked the radio station to remove the ad and was told this was not possible” Grandone said. What an effort!

Aaron Ammons’ campaign posted this response:

I am not going to try to educate you on why the content of the message is deeply troublesome. I encourage you to do some research to understand the history of oppression and disenfranchisement of women and people of color in this country. I encourage you to try to understand the ways in which Champaign County is segregated by race and class (who are your neighbors, what are their jobs?), to learn about what kinds of opportunities are available to people who have served time. I ask that you try to understand that cleaning is not inherently feminine, that mopping floors and cleaning toilets is dignified work, and not worthy of disdain and dismissal.

That said, with Grandone’s public post, Ammons now (presumably) knows that Grandone’s campaign did not make the ad. Ammons’ campaign should respond in kind by adjusting the language to reflect that, for example, “a radio ad done by supporters of my opponent,” instead of “a radio ad done by my opponent.” It’s a subtle but important difference.

I’ll add that it always seems to unfairly fall upon the historically marginalized to “go high” when others “go low,” but if everyone abandons a sense of truth and morality, where does that leave us as a society?


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