John Chapman Exploits the Wrong Person
Let’s say you are Republican congressional nominee John Chapman, and you make a campaign video ad that shows people in the district unable to identify your opponent, Bill Keating, as the current congressman. What’s the worst thing you could do in putting together that video?
Perhaps you answered: Including a mentally disabled person in that video, so it appears that you are mocking him. That’s close, but not quite.
The worst would be to include a mentally disabled person who is an immediate family member of one of the journalists on the panel for your next debate.
Monday night, WATD-FM’s Charlie Mathewson was a panelist for that radio station’s debate between Chapman and Keating, and midway though the program he asked Chapman why he used footage of his stepson struggling to remember who Bill Keating might be.
Mathewson tells me he stumbled across the Chapman video as he was preparing for the debate. “I was astonished to see my stepson,” he says. “He lives in a group home downtown. He has an IQ of 65.“
The Chapman campaign notes to me that they got a release from each person shown in the video, but Mathewson is unimpressed with that argument. “If you talked to my stepson for five minutes, you would know he’s incompetent to enter a contract,” he says.
Mathewson sprung it on Chapman after first asking Keating about the charge of absenteeism, and then asking Chapman why he thought the charge made in the video is fair. Here is the exchange that followed, which you can hear roughly 33 minutes into the audio:
Mathewson: Do you know, in that ad, the young man in blue, who’s sitting on a park bench, in front of the post office, and all he can say is “uhhh… uhhh”—do you recall that from the ad?
Chapman: I’ve seen it, yes.
Mathewson: Well, I can tell you that that young man could not tell you the name of any public official, possibly the President. And how do I know, because that is my stepson. And he has an IQ of 65. And you included that in your ad, taking advantage of a severely disabled person, entering into a model contract with him. And, I don’t know, I was just kind of disappointed to see you take advantage of someone with a 65 IQ.
Chapman: Well I wasn’t there with the filming, but I will tell you that I’m sorry to hear that, and it’s unfortunate. It was certainly not the intent of the ad to take advantage of anyone. It was meant to point out a sentiment that I had felt throughout the district, and I apologize because that certainly was not the intent of the ad.
Perhaps not the gravest sin in politics, but it’s riveting radio, and at the very least a warning to campaigns to be a little more careful with—and respectful of—the people they try to use for their political purposes.