The advert was part of Florida Congressman Andy Grayson’s re-election campaign, and was aimed at Daniel Webster, the Republican ‘Tea-Party’ candidate. It was an attempt to appeal to crucial women voters by outlining Webster’s views on female rights. Various negative news stories about Webster were featured, but the centre-piece of the ad was an actual audio clip of Webster himself, speaking in front of an audience where he declared that his wife should “Submit to me”. This clip is played three times over the course of the 30 second advert and makes Webster sound like an Old Testament religious fanatic.
The advert also relied on a few other tried and tested marketing techniques such as:
- Creating a rhyming slogan using your opponents name
- Showing him in black and white to make him look scary
- Repeating the same negative sound clip over and over again
- Appealing to classic American virtues like freedom and democracy
- The use of a female voiceover to specifically target women voters
- The phrase ‘Taliban Dan’ is presented in generic “Middle-Eastern” script
There was an immediate and fierce reaction to the advert, but not in the way Grayson might have hoped. While Daniel Webster did hold some very right-wing views on a number of issues, comparing him to the Taliban was a step too far for many voters. What was worse though, was the fact that the crucial “submit to me” quotation was taken entirely out of context. What Webster was actually saying was that men should follow commandments from the Bible, except for the part about “submitting to their husbands”. Here is what he said taken from the full video:
“I have verses for my wife. Don’t pick the ones that say ‘She should submit to me.’ That’s in the Bible, but pick the ones that you’re supposed to do. So instead, ‘love your wife, even as Christ loved the Church and gave himself for it’ as opposed to ‘wives submit to your own husbands’.”
This was the complete opposite of what the ‘Taliban Dan’ advert was implying and taking his words out of context in this way was clearly dishonest.
Many questioned why Grayson had felt the need to do this considering that there were so many other parts of Webster’s voting record he could have legitimately attacked. Several major figures in the Democratic Party came out to try to defend Grayson but by this point the damage was done. The advert backfired and Grayson lost the election to Webster.
Here is the ‘Taliban Dan’ advert in full: