COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Supreme Court Justice Robert Cupp called on the state Republican Party on Friday to pull a TV ad that accuses his election opponent of sympathizing with rapists, after the spot was rebuked by the state bar association.
A GOP spokesman said the party has no plans to pull the spot, airing in media markets statewide.
The commercial targets a 12-year-old appellate court ruling by Cupp’s opponent, Democrat Bill O’Neill, which reversed a rape conviction and sent the case back for re-trial because no expert witness was called for the defendant.
The ad states, “When crime occurs, victims deserve justice but, as a judge, Bill O’Neill expressed sympathy for rapists.”
O’Neill said in the decision that “Rape is a crime of violence which ultimately devastates the lives of at least two people” – the victim and the perpetrator, who is “labeled for life.”
In a strongly worded letter Friday, the chair of the Ohio State Bar Association’s advertising monitoring committee said the panel voted unanimously Thursday that the ad violates association standards by harming the integrity of the judicial system and eroding the public trust in jurists.
Chair Maxine Thomas wrote that Cupp’s clean-campaign pledge required him to go beyond distancing himself from the commercial, as he’d already done, and to actively work to have the ad pulled down.
Cupp quickly did so.
“Justice Cupp and his campaign disavowed and criticized the independent state party ad the moment we found out about it, and we call on the state party to remove it from all forms of public distribution,” spokesman Mark Weaver said.
GOP spokesman Matthew Henderson said the ad was shot in a studio by Columbus-based The Strategy Group for Media. The consultancy’s co-founder, Rex Elsass, also works for U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, a Republican from Missouri, who’s drawn attention for his assertion that the female body can shut down pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
Henderson said the party stands by the Cupp ad.
“The ad is based on O’Neill’s own words and he said rape ultimately devastates the lives of two people,” Henderson said. “Judges speak through their opinions and we feel it’s entirely appropriate, proper and fair to bring those opinions to light during a campaign.”
O’Neill has said he stands by that and his other rulings during 10 years on the appellate bench.
Polling shows Cupp and O’Neill in a tight race, though Cupp is an incumbent and O’Neill is accepting no campaign contributions.