Political advertising (No4) ‘Taliban’ Dan

While negative attack advertising has become an accepted part of the current political landscape, Andy Grayson’s 2010 ‘Taliban Dan’ ad is evidence that it doesn’t always work.

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:

For a full list of political advertising I’ve reviewed click here

About matthewashton

I'm a Politics Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. I specialise in the fields of American, British and media politics.
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9 Responses to Political advertising (No4) ‘Taliban’ Dan

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Political advertising (No4) ‘Taliban’ Dan | Dr Matthew Ashton's Politics Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Greetings, Ashton aka Matt (I may get that “Matt” down in the future, but not quite yet.). This post seems as good a place as any to leave this “fyi” for you. You do teach about political media–and American polticial media at that–correct? So, IF you haven’t already had a heads up about this special two hour broadcast by Democracy Now! this Saturday in America–then here’s your heads up. I’ve been observing news coverage of Egypt on several mainstream channels available to folks without cable. Depending on when you get online access might be tough even for the repeat broadcast as there were over 4,800 viewing online and at times only audio was available. BUT–if I were teaching your material, I’d sure have a great time comparing and contrasting this broadcast, and other footage from Sharif Kouddous from Tahrir, with all the other mainstream coverage on ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS, BBC, and PBS. http://www.democracynow.org
    Seriously, it’s not to be missed.

    • Hopefully (if they’ve done their job), the university audio-visual department will have made a copy of this for me from the online stream. I’m not 100% sure of the legality but it’s for my own personal use and otherwise I don’t think I’d have been able to get my internet access working at sufficient speeds to watch. I’ll let you know tomorrow how the process turned out.

      I’ll be very interested in watching this as I’m always fascinated by documentaries that compare the media in different countries. I remember the Control Room did a similar thing between Fox News and Al Jazeera over the War in Iraq (hopefully I’ll be reviewing that soon).

      Anyway, thank you very much for the recommendation, and if you see anything else like this coming up I’ll always appreciate being told about it as I’ll find it very useful for my teaching.


      Matt :)

      • Greetings. If your computer can deal with YouTube it ought to handle the broadcasts on Democracy Now! just fine. If nothing else you really ought to catch the approx. 25 minutes of Sharif Kouddous in Tahrir going where no other American journalist has gone so far. I was able get this part off of YouTube for a blogpost. As for the Saturday 2 hour broadcast–it’s heads and shoulders above all the other yappers on the usual American broadcasts for the effort to create a CONTEXT for people to better understand what’s going on in Egypt. Read about the PEW report regarding the overwhelming ignorance of American audiences regarding Egypt. Now that’s not a pretty picture all things considered. Luck.

      • I’m now going to use this as a case study with my media students later in the term. Thanks for putting me on to it.

  3. My pleasure. Also–I’d be seriously surprised if you requested permission for use from Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! if you were ‘denied.’
    And–regarding media in Ameria–here’s something from those some have tried very hard to make “invisible” — http://www.nativeamericacalling.com/
    On Friday, 18 February, Native America Calling discuss the proposed extermination of all funds for Public Broadcasting from a Native American perspective.
    Also–providing a platform on 15 February regarding the hundreds of murdered women in the Pacific Northwest. This is an area that is almost unknown to mainstream media audiences in America. There are at least three “hot” zones for a multitude of unsolved murders of Indigenous women: along border with Mexico, along border with Canada–and in the Pacific Northwest. Hundreds of unsolved murders of women over years and years. It’s an incredible ongoing crime drama.
    Broadcasts are archived on site. Equally interesting are all the callers from Indian country–and the whites too. Yes, more “talk radio”.

  4. Danny Sipos says:

    Hello Matt,
    The link to the advert is broken from Youtube. Just letting you know, feel free to delete this post as it will have fulfiled its purpose upon you seeing it.

    Take care

  5. It’s Alan Grayson not Andy. Good lists, lack of West Wing and Borgen defies reason though.

    • You’re quite right. Sometimes I need to proofread a little more slowly :-)

      I am going to review the West Wing and Borgen at some point, but I’m trying to do the more obscure stuff first like The Dismissal, K Street, John Adams and the Red Riding trilogy. Mainly this is because West Wing and Borgen have been reviewed so many times that I’m not sure what else I can add, and also I presume anyone who’s even remotely interested in politics will have seen these two great series before.

      Thanks for the kind words though about the lists :-). If there are any other things you think I should add to my “to review” list please let me know as I’m always looking for new material.

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