Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’s (R-KY) campaign just could not get the simplest of ads right on Tuesday.
The campaign embarrassingly put out a web ad that mistook players from Duke’s 2010 championship team for Kentucky players three days before the basketball-crazed state will see Louisville and Kentucky face off in Indianapolis in the Sweet 16. Duke is hated in Kentucky, and even more so after Christian Laettner’s “the shot.” Kentucky fans still wear “I Still Hate Laettner” t-shirts.
The McConnell campaign blamed the mistake on a vendor and then released a second ad with current Kentucky freshman Julius Randle. Except the new ad almost violated NCAA rules. But because neither Kentucky nor Randle knew about it or gave the McConnell campaign permission, the NCAA ruled that it was not a violation. Nevertheless, Kentucky sent the campaign a cease a desist letter:
The University of Kentucky consulted with the NCAA earlier today regarding footage of Julius Randle in a Mitch McConnell advertisement. Although the use of the student-athlete’s image in the advertisement is not permissible, because it was done without the knowledge or permission of the university or the student-athlete, it is not an NCAA violation. The University of Kentucky has sent a cease and desist letter and will continue to take appropriate measures to ensure improper usage of a student-athlete’s name, image or likeness is prevented.
Further, McConnell, according to the Huffington Post, was asked, “Can you clarify, are you a Louisville fan or a Duke fan?” His answer indicates that he misheard the question, answering it as if he were asked if he were a Kentucky or Louisville fan. McConnell has degrees from both schools:
“You know, I didn’t get this far in my line of work by answering questions like that,” McConnell answered, pausing a second to muster a chuckle.
“That is the hottest issue in our state,” he added, skipping over the Duke reference.
He preferred to focus the pending game Friday between Louisville and the University of Kentucky.
“I read an article the other day — you’ll get a kick out of it, since you asked about sports,” McConnell said. “In the Louisville media market, which has only about a million people in it, if college basketball is on, there are more eyeballs watching basketball in the Louisville, Ky., media market than any other media market in the country. So it is a passion in our state, and we’ve got the two NCAA champions in the last two years running against each other Friday night. My law school classmate, the governor, has refused to take a position on this important game, and I think he’s got it right.”
The McConnell campaign eventually took down the second web ad after the cease and desist letter.
“Earlier today, issues related to the use of NCAA images in a web video created by an outside vendor for our campaign were brought to our attention. The video was taken down immediately after questions were raised,” the McConnell campaign said. “It was our intention to honor our great Kentucky basketball traditions. Our campaign apologizes for any inconvenience this may have caused.”
Kentucky-Louisville is one of the greatest college basketball rivalries (along with North Carolina-Duke). The schools have won the last two national titles and meet in the Sweet 16 on Friday for a trip to the Elite Eight. Establishment Republicans always pick on the smallest mistakes made by conservatives and Tea Party candidates to mock their “organization” and often don’t hold themselves up to the same standards after such egregious and unforced gaffes. The ad was reportedly made by Lucas Baiano.