By: E&P Staff
It seemed like a ?gotcha? moment for Republicans in one of the most closely watched congressional races in the country: catching the Democratic candidate calling a sex phone line and billing the call to the local taxpayers. Now it may backfire on the Republicans.
Newspapers in the upstate New York district have had a field day chronicling the dispute, with the latest twist seeming to reveal that the Democrat, or an aide, had simply dialed a wrong number.
Democrat Michael Arcuri is vying with Republican, Ray Meier, to replace longtime GOP Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, who is retiring. The race is very close and may help decide if the Democrats take the House.
The national GOP campaign office started airing an ad Friday that showed Arcuri leering at the silhouette of a dancing woman who says, ”Hi, sexy. You’ve reached the live, one-on-one fantasy line.” He supposedly dialed the service two years ago from a New York City hotel room and billed taxpayers ? for all of $1.25 for a one-minute call. He is the district attorney in Oneida County.
Now the Utica Observer-Dispatch today notes that Arcuri’s campaign has released records to the paper showing the call to the 800 sex line was followed the very next minute by a call to the state Department of Criminal Justice Services ? and the last seven digits of the two numbers are the same.
Arcuri now says the ad was ”clearly libelous” and threatens to file a lawsuit. At least seven television stations in Syracuse, Utica and Binghamton refused to run the ad.
The ad’s sponsor, the National Republican Congressional Committee, stands by the 30-second message.
Spokesman Ed Patru insisted it was ”totally true.” Both candidates had already questioned ads run by the national parties in their district ? they have no legal right to veto them.
Arcuri said he had ”never seen such an unfair commercial. I have a 12-year-old daughter. She’s going to have to go to school and hear other kids talk about this.”
Here?s how the Utica Observer-Dispatch described the ad today.
What the ad says
Woman’s sultry voice: “Hi sexy. You’ve reached the live one-on-one fantasy line.” (Soft music plays in the background.)
Announcer: “A phone number to an adult fantasy hot line appeared on Michael Arcuri’s New York City hotel room bill while he was there on official business. And the call was charged to Oneida County taxpayers. Arcuri has denied it, but the facts are there. Who calls a fantasy hot line and then bills taxpayers? Michael Arcuri.”
Woman’s sultry voice: “Bad call.”
What the ad shows
The opening moments of the ad show the silhouette of a dancing woman and footage of Arcuri.
Then, a man’s hand is shown dialing a telephone and the lower half of a woman’s face speaking into a phone.
The following text appears: “A phone number to an adult hot line appeared on Michael Arcuri’s NYC hotel bill. The call was charged to Oneida County taxpayers.”
The woman’s dancing silhouette and the footage of Arcuri return.
More text appears, stating, “Arcuri has denied it. But the facts are there. Michael Arcuri. Bad Call.”