Delaware TV station refutes bias claims in O’Donnell ad flap

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell called out a public access cable television station in Delaware for not running a 30-minute ad Sunday night or Monday morning, but a station executive told The Daily Caller the Tea Party favorite’s campaign is to blame this time around.

Channel 28 executive producer Tim Qualls, who is now almost certain the ad will run by 3:00 p.m. today, said he thinks he is being unfairly attacked in this situation, as he said he has done everything he can to rectify the problem.

The confusion, Qualls said, started with him not receiving a tape from the O’Donnell campaign until Sunday morning, and that the campaign had to improve the quality of the tape and re-send it to him Monday. Qualls said he originally told the O’Donnell campaign he needed the tape by Friday afternoon at the latest to be able to run the ad Monday.

In an e-mail to TheDC, though, O’Donnell spokesperson Doug Sachtleben said, “It is my understanding that station personnel have confirmed receiving the tape Sunday night, at least two hours before the scheduled air time.”

The ad did not run Sunday at 11:30 p.m., as O’Donnell originally announced it would at a rally that day. She then tweeted that the ad would run today at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. However, it did not air in the morning. Qualls said he does not know why O’Donnell said the ad would run Sunday night, noting that he originally told her campaign it would run Monday.

Qualls said he is going to try to air the ad again tonight as a way to make up for the mistake, even though he said O’Donnell’s campaign is mostly to blame for the confusion.

Qualls also told TheDC he has yet to receive payment for the ad from O’Donnell’s campaign, which paid a third-party broker for the ad time. The price was set at $2,500 for the 30-minute spot to run four times. Qualls said he would typically bill non-political customers for airtime, but will not usually extend that courtesy to politicians.

“I learned a long time ago that, in politics, you get your money up front,” Qualls said.

Qualls said he is cutting O’Donnell slack because a third-party broker, Nancy Lopez Media, was involved in the payment process. Qualls was only made aware Monday afternoon that the third party had received the money.

O’Donnell’s campaign is on the offensive against Channel 28, calling it a possible example of media bias and making the ad flap a big issue on the final day of her campaign.

“It’s still unclear as to why the local cable channel failed to air the half-hour long special. Our hope is that this is not another case of the liberal media or political dirty tricks trying to silence Christine’s message to the voters of Delaware,” Sachtleben said in an official campaign statement.

The Washington Post originally reported that Channel 28 “forgot” to run the advertisement, using anonymous sources. Qualls said that was not true. “We didn’t forget to run the ad,” Qualls said. “We didn’t have the ad.”

He added that the Washington Post reporter told him the newspaper is running a correction soon.

The O’Donnell campaign said Monday afternoon that it had contacted Qualls and indicated that all issues had been resolved.

“The half-hour long special from the O’Donnell campaign was not aired as scheduled on Sunday night and Monday morning. Delaware 28 Executive Producer Tim Qualls explained to the campaign that he was out of the area for the weekend because of a family illness, and was apparently unaware of the campaign’s transaction last Friday between a local third-party buyer and Channel 28 employees,” Sachtleben said in a statement.

“Mr. Qualls is being incredibly cooperative now that he finally understands the situation, and we cannot thank him enough for helping us get Christine’s message out to the voters of Delaware,” he noted. “We are sincerely sorry for any misunderstanding that has transpired and that may have added stress to his family situation.”

The campaign said the ad would be aired at 6:00 p.m. And 6:30 p.m. Tonight and again Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. However, Qualls told TheDC that the ad is scheduled to run at 11:30 p.m. tonight and four times on Tuesday (10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.).

Regardless of how the issue plays out in public, it has already cost O’Donnell at the polls.

“She lost my vote,” said Qualls, noting that he had voted for O’Donnell in the GOP primary.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 4:15 p.m.