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The BBC's Philippa Thomas
"This is the political advert that's run more than 4 thousand times"
 real 56k

Bill Cook of the Advertising Research Foundation
"The Democrats have turned this around and shoot the Republicans with their own gun"
 real 28k

banner Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Democrats smell campaign rat
Still frame of Republican TV ad
Democrats see it as another embarrassment for Bush
The Republican presidential candidate, George W Bush, has denied that his team planted the word "Rats" as a subliminal message in a television advertisement criticising his Democrat opponent Al Gore.

Mr Gore's aides seized on the 30-second ad, giving a slowed-down version of it to the New York Times. They said a Democrat in Seattle had spotted the apparently subliminal message after a close inspection.


The word 'bureaucrats' ends with 'rats' just like the word 'Democrat'. It is a spot about health care. It's not a spot about rodents

Alex Castellanos, ad maker

The advertisement deals with one of the main domestic issues of the campaign - the provision of prescription drugs for the elderly.

It shows an image of Vice-President Al Gore, followed by fragments of the words "Bureaucrats decide". The word "RATS" briefly flashes on the screen before the entire word "bureaucrats" appears.

The ad has been broadcast in several key states. It contrasts the rival candidates' plans for prescription drugs, saying senior citizens will have more control over their health care under Mr Bush's proposals.

"The Gore prescription plan - bureaucrats decide. The Bush prescription plan - seniors choose," the controversial ad says.

Bush denial

"We don't need to be manufacturing subliminal messages to get my message across," Mr Bush told ABC television.

But he then admitted that he had not even seen the ad.

George W Bush campaigning in Florida
George W Bush dismissed the Democrats' claims

Mr Gore's spokesman Chris Lehane said the Gore camp was disappointed by the advertisement. "We have never seen anything like this. The ad speaks for itself," he said.

Alex Castellanos, who made the ad for the Republican National Committee, defended his work.

He said he had faded the word in to make the ad more visually interesting, and the fact that the letters spelled "Rats" was just a coincidence.

'Visual drum beat'

"The word 'bureaucrats' ends with 'rats' just like the word 'Democrat'. It is a spot about health care. It's not a spot about rodents," he said.

"It's a visual drum beat. People get bored watching TV," he added.

rat
No connection with this rodent, Republicans say

Asked whether his campaign planned to withdraw the ad, Mr Bush said: "You know, I don't have any idea".

Mr Gore has recently overtaken Mr Bush in the opinion polls ahead of the November election.

Last week Mr Bush was involved in a row over rude remarks he made about a reporter in public.

The BBC Washington correspondent, Paul Reynolds, says the latest incident is seen as evidence of the disorganisation that can occur when a candidate is behind.

Researchers have said the "Rats" message would in fact be ineffective as a subliminal device.

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See also:

05 Sep 00 | Americas
Bush: No apology for gaffe
12 Sep 00 | Election news
Gore woos female vote
24 Aug 00 | Election news
Boost for Gore campaign
23 Aug 00 | Election news
Conventions give US race momentum
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