TV Ads Say S.U.V. Owners Support
By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE, NY Times
WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 — Ratcheting up the debate over sport
utility vehicles, new television commercials suggest that people who
buy the vehicles are supporting terrorists. The commercials are so
provocative that some television stations are refusing to run
Patterned after the commercials that try to discourage drug
use by suggesting that profits from illegal drugs go to terrorists,
the new commercials say that money for gas needed for S.U.V.'s goes
is George," a girl's voice says of an oblivious man at a gas
station. "This is the gas that George bought for his S.U.V." The
screen then shows a map of the Middle East. "These are the countries
where the executives bought the oil that made the gas that George
bought for his S.U.V." The picture switches to a scene of armed
terrorists in a desert. "And these are the terrorists who get money
from those countries every time George fills up his
second commercial depicts a series of ordinary Americans saying
things like: "I helped hijack an airplane"; "I gave money to a
terrorist training camp in a foreign country"; "What if I need to go
close, the screen is filled with the words: "What is your S.U.V.
doing to our national security?"
30-second commercials are the brainchild of the author and columnist
Arianna Huffington. Her target audience, she said, is Detroit and
Congress, especially the Republicans and Democrats who last year
voted against a bill, sponsored by Senators John McCain, Republican
of Arizona, and John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, that would
have raised fuel-efficiency standards.
Spokesmen for the automakers dismissed the
Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers,
said of Ms. Huffington, "Her opinion is out-voted every year by
Americans who buy S.U.V.'s for their safety, comfort and
versatility." He said that S.U.V.'s now account for 21 percent of
interview, Senator Kerry distanced himself from the commercials. He
said that rather than oppose S.U.V.'s outright, he believed they
should be more efficient.
haven't seen these commercials," he said, "but anybody can drive as
large an S.U.V. as they want, though it can be more efficient than
it is today."
Huffington's group, which calls itself the Detroit Project, has
bought almost $200,000 of air time for the commercials, to run from
Sunday to Thursday. While the group may lose some viewers if
stations refuse to run the advertisements, the message is attracting
attention through news coverage.
advertisements are to be broadcast on "Meet The Press," "Face the
Nation" and "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" in Detroit, Los
Angeles, New York and Washington.
some local affiliates say they will not run them. At the ABC
affiliate in New York, Art Moore, director of programming, said,
"There were a lot of statements being made that were not backed up,
and they're talking about hot-button issues."
Huffington said she got the idea for the commercials while watching
the antidrug commercials, sponsored by the Bush administration. In
her syndicated column, she asked readers if they would be willing to
pay for "a people's ad campaign to jolt our leaders into
said she received 5,000 e-mail messages and eventually raised
$50,000 from the public. Bigger contributors included Steve Bing,
the film producer; Larry David, the comedian and "Seinfeld"
co-creator; and Norman Lear, the television producer.