How Elizabeth Dole's 'godless' ad was created

Raleigh News & ObserverNovember 9, 2008 

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The famous -- or infamous, depending on your point of view -- "godless" TV commercial in North Carolina's campaign for the U.S. Senate almost didn't happen.

For starters, Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole's campaign didn't think Democratic challenger Kay Hagan would follow through with plans to attend a Boston fundraiser hosted by a couple known for promoting atheist causes. Certainly not after the Dole campaign had sent out a news release attacking Hagan for even scheduling such an event.

Even then, Dole's campaign thought it would run such an ad only as a last resort. And then it would be the mildest version of the ad.

So says Fred Davis, the Hollywood-based media consultant who produced the ad, which became one of the most discussed TV commercials in the nation during the past election.

Critics of the ad from the right and the left accused Dole of questioning Hagan's faith. Hagan, a Sunday school teacher and elder in her Presbyterian church in Greensboro, called the ad "despicable" and ran her own ad accusing Dole of "bearing false witness against fellow Christians."

But Davis insists the commercial was not designed to question Hagan's faith. He said it was about her decision to attend the fundraiser.

The "godless" ad is likely to be remembered as one of North Carolina's most famous TV political commercials, joining the likes of Sen. Jesse Helms' "white hands" ad in 1990, which said that his black opponent, Harvey Gantt, favored racial quotas. Or the 1984 Jim Hunt ad featuring gun shots and photographs of dead bodies, which tied Helms to right-wing death squads in El Salvador.

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