Graphic abortion ads running on Pittsburgh, Steubenville TV stations
Several television stations say federal regulations compel them to run graphic political ads from a fringe presidential candidate, but a lawyer who specializes in campaign law disagrees.
The ads feature what appear to be aborted fetuses, beheaded bodies and video of a beheading in progress.
“This has crossed all boundaries,” said Lorraine Gregor, 61, of McKees Rocks, who saw the abortion ad while watching the morning news. “It was awful. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life on TV. That just goes too far. … Nobody needs to see that.”
The candidate behind the ad, pro-life advocate Randall Terry, is on the ballot in West Virginia. The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday ruled that stations whose broadcast area includes part of the state have to sell him airtime.
Terry's campaign didn't respond to a message sent through its website's contact page. There was no phone number listed.
Dan Backer, a Washington lawyer who specializes in campaign and political law, said the FCC regulations give Terry access but not unfettered access to the airwaves.
“They can't edit the ad, but they can say: ‘Look, we're not willing to run it because it violates our decency standard,' ” he said. “They're not required to let him run anything he wants to.”
WTAE-TV and WPXI-TV have run the abortion ad, but included a disclaimer warning viewers of the graphic nature of the ad. WTOV-9 in Steubenville, Ohio, has done the same.
Michael Hayes, general manager at WTAE, couldn't be reached for comment. The station has a notice on its website explaining why it believes it has to run the ads at 6:10 a.m., 5:45 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.
Ray Carter, vice president and general manager for WPXI, said FCC regulations don't even allow stations to limit the ads to times when children aren't likely to be watching.
“Fortunately for us, the times they bought were either very early morning or late night,” he said.
Carter said he's not aware of a single time that the FCC has upheld a station that refused to run a political ad on decency grounds.
Tim McCoy, vice president and general manager of WTOV-9, said his station's lawyer came to the same conclusion. Carter and McCoy said their stations have received numerous complaints about the ad.
“Obviously, people are upset when they see the content,” McCoy said.
Managers for KDKA-TV and WPGH-TV couldn't be reached for comment.
In a separate issue, Chicago-based Patriotic Veterans Inc. said it is filing a complaint with the FCC because KDKA Radio refused to run an ad criticizing two of Sen. Bob Casey Jr.'s votes.
Michael Young, senior vice president for KDKA Radio, said the station requires people running political ads to substantiate the claims they make in the ads and, so far, the group has not done that.
Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed to this story. Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.