A Republican production firm was behind a casting call that sought actors who looked like hicks to portray West Virginians in a U.S. Senate race ad, an e-mail released Thursday shows.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee said it has fired Jamestown Associates and apologized for earlier blaming an outside casting firm for the flap.
The ad, filmed in Philadelphia, showed men in flannel shirts and baseball caps worrying that if Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin was elected to the Senate he would side with President Barack Obama.
With Obama considered unpopular here, it's a theme the GOP has been hammering in the hard-fought race to replace the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
"We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look," the casting call said. "These characters are from West Virginia so think coal miner/trucker looks."
Manchin's campaign and Democrats quickly seized on that language, and the filming location, to make the ad an issue.
The NRSC pulled the ad earlier than scheduled last week while blaming the outside firm, Kathy Wickline Casting, for the casting call. A lawyer for that firm released the e-mail showing the call's language came from Jamestown.
Among other details, Jamestown's e-mail suggested actors wear trucker or "John Deer" hats that are "not brand new, preferably beat up," as well as "Dickie's type jacket with t-shirt underneath."
Kathy Wickline copied the e-mail's language into what it sent the ad's actors. Jamestown said in a Thursday statement that the language was meant as a private communication with the outside firm.
"We apologize for any embarrassment this may have caused to any of the parties and have resigned from the account," Jamestown's statement said.
But NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh said the committee fired Jamestown.
"When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language and we took them at their word," Walsh said in a statement. "The NRSC will have no further dealings, now or ever, with Jamestown Associates, but they were our vendor and we take responsibility for this unfortunate matter."
Manchin's campaign did not immediately comment Thursday. He is running along with two minor party candidates and Republican nominee John Raese, whose campaign called the ad "ridiculous" when it aired last week. Raese on Thursday again noted that his campaign had nothing to do with it.
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