Billionaire won't air Obama-Rev. Wright campaign ads

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. speaks at the Detroit NAACP's 53rd annual Fight for Freedom dinner, Sunday, April 27, 2008. (AP)
May 17, 2012 3:24:06 PM PDT
A Republican plan to run a series of attack ads against President Barack Obama triggered a political firestorm.

The commercials would have featured the controversial sermons of pastor Jeremiah Wright. The proposal was eventually rejected by a Republican super political action committee

The attack ads would have been funded by Joe Ricketts, the billionaire whose family owns the Chicago Cubs.

The proposal was rejected only after the plan was exposed by The New York Times. A super-PAC funded in large part by one of the Cubs' co-owners considered reigniting the racially charged Jeremiah Wright episode as part the 2012 presidential campaign.

The fiery, controversial sermons of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright -- were they so-called 'black liberation theology" or anti-American racist rants? The video clips became a major issue in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

By the fall general election campaign there was virtually no mainstream reporting on the Wright controversy as Obama won the presidency.

Last week, a $10 million proposal surfaced to resurrect the racially charged episode in the effort to defeat the president's re-election effort. The cover page called it "the Ricketts Plan," as in Joe Ricketts, the patriarch of the multi-millionaire family that owns the Chicago Cubs.

"That proposal has been rejected," said Ricketts family spokesman Dennis Culloton. "The entire Ricketts family repudiates any proposal or campaign that would serve or do anything to cause racial divisions."

Thursday morning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, was livid that Joe Ricketts ever considered financing racially motivated ads.

"If that's the nature, America's too great a country with too great a future for the content they're talking about," Emanuel said. "It's insulting to the president, it's insulting to the country."

The so-called "Ricketts plan" would produce a five-minute film focusing on Obama and Wright, to be released in September as Democrats opened their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The proposal called the president "the metrosexual black Abe Lincoln." It suggested using "Obama's computer-generated face on the filmed body of a similarly sized actor," and another sentence read, "We should at least discuss (the) narrator being an African-American."

Even Mitt Romney, on whose behalf the PAC would produce the ad, was appalled.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that I repudiate that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign," said Romney.

The Joe Ricketts PAC's parent organization is called "Ending Spending." Still, the family's major league Major League Baseball franchise is asking for city taxpayer support in its effort to renovate Wrigley Field.

Sources at City Hall say that Mayor Emanuel continues to seethe over the incident. The Ricketts reportedly have tried to contact the mayor but he did not want to talk to them Thursday, Friday, or anytime soon.

Ricketts family spokesman Culloton says the Wrigley renovation deal is still a good deal despite what has happened during the past 24 hours.

Press release statement from 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney:

"My focus remains on the community and residents I serve as alderman of the 44th Ward. Currently, that includes ensuring that their views are represented in any negotiations with the Cubs regarding public financing support of a rehab of Wrigley Field. As I have stated previously, should amusement taxes be used to partially fund the renovations, the views of the community need to be respected. Investments in the quality of life for Lakeview residents are as equally important as renovations to the ballpark. I will continue to work with the residents and the Cubs towards an agreeable plan that takes all issues into consideration. While my political views are more in line with his daughter, Laura's, like every American, Joe Ricketts has the right to support the political candidates that best reflect his positions. That said, his political activities are not relevant to my ongoing interactions with the Cubs organization."

Alderman Tom Tunney
44th Ward


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