Local Politics

Ad agency denies ‘duping’ N.C. congressional contender

Posted November 2, 2010

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— An advertising company hired to produce an ad for a North Carolina congressional candidate denies that it deceived the campaign into believing actor Morgan Freeman would narrate it.

Benjamin Mathis, with Los Angeles-based MEI Political, released a statement Tuesday morning, saying he told Fourth District candidate B.J. Lawson’s campaign, both verbally and in writing, that the voice in the ad was not that of the Oscar-winning actor.

"We also informed the campaign that even though the ad was similar to Morgan Freeman in style or tone, the campaign should not represent it as the actor Morgan Freeman or as an endorsement by Mr. Freeman,” Mathis said.

Freeman said in a statement Monday that he never recorded any ads for Lawson and that he does not support Lawson's candidacy.

A neurosurgeon resident at Duke University, Lawson is facing Democratic incumbent David Price.

Lawson and campaign manager Martin Avila touted the use of Freeman in the ad. In an e-mail to supporters Monday, Avial wrote, "The Lawson for Congress campaign confirms that its latest radio and TV ad is indeed narrated by actor Morgan Freeman."

By Monday afternoon, Avila backed off that claim, but he produced a $4,500 contract that the campaign signed Oct. 28 for “one Morgan Freeman radio commercial.”

MEI-Lawson campaign contract

The contract does not specify whether the narration would be from a voice double or Freeman. Mathis said he made it clear that a voice double would be used.

Avila said Tuesday said the campaign stands by Lawson’s claim that he was “duped” and that there is more paperwork and e-mails to support the claim.

Lawson campaign responds Lawson campaign responds

“We just showed all our counsel everything, and they’re actually recommending that we go with some sort of criminal inquiry, at this point, because it’s just completely all over the road with all his claims,” Avila said.

“At this point, it’s just about getting out the truth,” he continued. “We were just duped. We were tricked. It’s really unfortunate.”

Those e-mails, released Tuesday by Lawson, appear to include excerpts of an Oct. 27 conversation between him and Mathis in which Mathis says he’s interested in recording an ad using the voice of actor John O’Hurley.

“Just let me know ASAP since I’ll already have him in studio,” Mathis wrote in an e-mail at 9:19 p.m. “I’ll also have Gerald McRaney, Morgan Freeman, Donald Sutherland, Kelsey Grammar, Ray Romano … later in the week. I might really get voters [sic] attention and some earned media in the final days of the campaign.”

In a message at 10:41 p.m., Lawson replied: “We’re scripting something for Mr. Freeman asap [sic]. Will be in touch shortly!”

At 10:50 p.m., Mathis wrote: “OK. Sounds good. Shall I email [sic] over an agreement? I can get him to record first thing in the morning.”

Mathis released an excerpt of an Oct. 12 e-mail to both Lawson’s and Price’s campaigns in which he expleained what a voice double is and that one would be used for Freeman.

“I'll also have the personal voice double[s] for Morgan Freeman (and others)…in studio recording ads for us,” he wrote.

Mathis shared an excerpt of the Oct. 12 message with WRAL News but would not allow the original e-mail to Lawson to be published.

“If there was ever any confusion on the part of the campaign as to whether or not this was Morgan Freeman, we made it abundantly clear in this e-mail and in our subsequent phone conversation that we were working with Mr. Freeman’s voice double, not Morgan Freeman,” Mathis said.

That e-mail was not included in e-mails Lawson released Tuesday. The campaign said it could not find the message.

“We sincerely want to believe that this was all a misunderstanding on the part of the Lawson campaign, rather than intentional effort by the campaign to misrepresent the ad we produced for them,” Mathis said.

“However, we regard the Lawson campaign’s statement that MEI Political in any way mislead [sic] the campaign or made any misrepresentation to the campaign as false and defamatory. We ask that the Lawson campaign issue an immediate apology and retraction.”

292 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • blackdog Nov 2, 7:16 p.m.

    They got caught, so, the ad agency falls on the sword...

  • geosol Nov 2, 6:07 p.m.

    Those crazy right wingers never cease to entertain us, do they? Half are just the usual complete deflections and name calling and don't address the issue at hand. Then there are some that just parrot what they're told by Rush and other demagogues. Some are just clueless, "Why now, right before the election?" I dunno, maybe its because that's when the ad ran? But my favorite are those that keep repeating their famous whine about the "liberal media" out to get them and only them. That one never gets old because it gives them a handy "excuse" to try on every time their guys get caught. Pretty convenient, and boy does it work for those little wingers. Too bad nobody else pays any attention to that baloney except other right wingers.

  • 5Rs Nov 2, 5:22 p.m.

    Two questions. Wonder how many other politicians were sold misrepresented ads. Wonder how the cat was let out of the bag the day before the election.

  • 5Rs Nov 2, 5:20 p.m.

    ""the biggest liar in the U.S history?" Nixon or George W. Bush?" - 27228

    Show me a speech where either one lied as much as Barack Obama did in his infamous healthcare speech, the one where Joe Miller couldn't stand to hear them anymore and stood to say "You lie" at the Capitol. There were 12 outright lies and 14 misrepresentations in that speech.

  • NcNativeRaleigh Nov 2, 5:19 p.m.

    nccarguy....I'm conservative, but you know what, now is the time to spend money to build infrastructure, materials are cheap so is labor and it benefits Americans by putting or keeping some working and benefits and supports future growth... GOP parrots plan? no! no! no!..... the interstate highway system would still be a blueprint with that leadership

  • 27228 Nov 2, 4:43 p.m.

    "the biggest liar in the U.S history?" Nixon or George W. Bush?

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Nov 2, 4:39 p.m.

    stocklotbuyer....as opposed to a trillion dollar wasteful spending spree your grandkids will be paying back???? That's what Price voted for.

  • rickmarie1972 Nov 2, 4:34 p.m.

    In the midst of major issues; jobs, economy, Supreme Court rulings over minors purchasing "kill" video games, this seems trivial. As a buyer of media, I can see how a salesman MIGHT just lead the buyer on......to exactly what he's getting. RickfromWillowSpring.

  • NcNativeRaleigh Nov 2, 4:30 p.m.

    $4500.00 for an Oscar winning actor including studio rental, equipment support and profit for political campaign consultant..yea lets but this guy in charge of the stimulus plan....we would get a bridge to nowhere.

  • I Change This Name Daily Nov 2, 4:21 p.m.

    i've got humphrey bogart available for your next campaign mr lawson

    barbara billingsley too

    can i interest you in some jimmy cagney? how about chaplin? (doesn't speak but falls down real good)

More...