TV Stations: Christine O’Donnell’s Closing Argument Fail Was Self-Inflicted

November 1, 2010 10:58 a.m.

Christine O’Donnell’s plan to end her campaign on a televised high note fell flat after her campaign failed to work out the right details with TV station operators in Delaware, the stations told me today.

At the end of yesterday’s Tea Party Express rally in Delaware, the Republican Senate nominee announced a 30-minute closing argument video broadcast on a Newcastle County public access station and WBOC-TV, a Delaware Fox affiliate. She urged her supporters to tune in to the public access channel — known as Channel 28 to Comcast subscribers in the area — at a still-to-be-determined time on Sunday night, and to catch rebroadcasts of the spot on both Channel 28 and WBOC today. None of the broadcasts she promised happened. O’Donnell’s campaign cried bias, while the TV stations said she and her campaign were confused.

On her campaign twitter feed, O’Donnell announced the first showing would be broadcast at 11:30 PM on Channel 28 last night. As the time came and went with no show, the campaign tweeted “Okay… this is NOT our show! Must be a programming mix up. We will get back to you…” There were no more tweets until 10 AM the next day, when the O’Donnell had said the ad would appear on Channel 28 for the second time. Again, it didn’t appear. That time around, the campaign began to allege bias on the part of the operators of Channel 28.

“This isn’t our show either!” the campaign tweeted. “We are told channel 28 “forgot” to air it…both times… even though we paid for the time slot last week.”Shortly after came this tweet:

“Dirty politics again? I’d like to think the County run station really did just “forget” even though we reminded them this morning.”

No one forgot anything at Channel 28, station operator Tim Qualls told me today. He said the O’Donnell campaign worked out a deal to broadcast the 30-minute spot five times before election day (at a cost of $2,500) but didn’t get a Channel 28 staffer the tape of the video “until 11 PM on Saturday night.” That wasn’t enough time for Qualls and his small staff to encode the video properly for broadcast by 11:30 Sunday or, apparently, 10 AM today.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Christine O’Donnell: Anti-Masturbation Crusader. Witchcraft Dabbler. Republican Senate Nominee.]

Qualls laughed off claims that there was bias behind the move, blaming it all on the time it takes for him to get a video on the public access station. He said the video will run multiple times today and tomorrow before the polls close.

Channel 28 appears to be the kind of public-access station that can make for eccentric and fun local programming — like the talk show Qualls hosts personally and refers to as a “Johnny Carson-type show for Delaware” — but does not appear to be the kind of media powerhouse that outsiders hearing about it for the first time might expect, based on the in part Sarah Palin-fueled controversy today. One of the reasons it was tough for the station to get the ad up by 11:30 last night, for example, was that Qualls said he had to be in Baltimore while his wife got medical treatment all weekend and wasn’t able to start encoding the video until this morning.

“It’s still unclear as to why the local cable channel failed to air the half-hour long special,” O’Donnell campaign spokesperson Doug Sachtleben said in a recent statement. “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.”

Qualls described himself “as the kind of Republican who wanted to see Mike Castle out of there,” referring to the establishment candidate O’Donnell defeated in the GOP primary, but said that “I still haven’t made up my mind yet” about who he’ll be voting for in the Senate race tomorrow.

As for WBOC, the Fox Affiliate, General Sales manager Abe Speicher told me that O’Donnell campaign manager Matt Moran approached the station about broadcasting the 30-minute video, but no time was ever purchased.

“I don’t know if she was misinformed or confused, or what,” Speicher told me when I asked him about O’Donnell’s announcement at the tea party rally. He said the ad “was never supposed to run” on WBOC.

O’Donnell told the crowd yesterday she needs the half-hour spot because her campaign has been been “running against the media” as well as Democratic nominee Chris Coons. The TPM Poll Average shows Coons ahead 55.2-37.7, suggesting at this point an O’Donnell win tomorrow would be just short of miraculous. O’Donnell said yesterday that the spot ad was a key part of her closing strategy.

Qualls said that Comcast viewers in Newcastle County will still be able to catch the 30-minute spot. In his statement, Sachtleben said the campaign remains irked with Qualls.

“Christine announced the broadcast during yesterday’s rally in Wilmington, and it was scheduled to run at 11:30 p.m. Sunday and again at 10 a.m. today,” he said. “But, the channel did not air the powerful ad at either scheduled time. We are very disappointed that an ad, which the campaign paid for last week, was not aired as scheduled.”

In a tweet this afternoon, O’Donnell’s campaign announced that the video will definitely be on public view tonight — but this time it didn’t say where or when:

“We’re working on getting a location for a Premiere party tonight for the We The People of the First State video,” the tweet reads. “Location TBD.”

For now, you can watch the ad O’Donnell says could save her campaign here:

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