An anti-Trump Republican-led political action committee said its television commercial criticizing Governor Greg Abbott’s response to the pandemic was withdrawn before it was scheduled to air during Saturday’s University of Texas football game.
The announcement was scheduled to air on the Longhorn Network during the game between Texas and Rice University, according to a press release from the Lincoln Project on Sunday. The organization said the ad cost $ 25,000 and was approved by ESPN’s legal department.
“Did Greg Abbott or his allies assert any political influence to make sure the ad didn’t get on the air? The statement said. “Again, instead of focusing on the task of protecting Texans from the coronavirus pandemic, it appears they focused their time and energy on censoring those who would hold him accountable for his failures.”
The Lincoln Project said it was told 10 minutes before kick-off that the ad would not be released due to a “decision made by the university.”
UT Provost Sharon Wood said Monday that Learfield, a third-party sports marketing company, pulled the ad on Friday night. The company has a contract with the sports department, Wood said at a UT faculty council meeting on Monday.
“For over a decade, Learfield has followed an ongoing policy of not selling political ads other than candidate ads. … Neither President Hartzell nor I knew anything about this before the event. The decision was not made within the Tower, ”said Wood.
Learfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Political advertising, titled “Abbott’s Wall,” notes that Texas has recorded more than 3.8 million total coronavirus cases and more than 60,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
According to the announcement, the state’s death toll from COVID-19 would fill a cemetery stretching from Austin to San Antonio, which would require coffins with “enough wood to build an 85-mile wall. long”. The ad shows a long line of several coffins organized in a wall.
The silent ad ends by saying that Abbott’s wall has been paid for with more than 60,475 Texans lives.
“If Governor Abbott wants to build a new wall, tell him to stop building this one,” the ad said.
David Carney, consultant for Abbott, said the governor had nothing to do with the withdrawal of the ad. Abbott, a UT alumnus, appoints the members of the board of regents of the UT system, who oversee UT-Austin and appoint the president of the university.
“I am saddened to learn that the ad may have been withdrawn. I’d rather they wasted $ 25,000 on their stunt than paying off their overdue mortgages or having excess funds to drink and dine more interns, ”Carney said.
Rick Wilson, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, said the organization wanted to broadcast the ad during the football game due to the large audience. He said the organization has yet to receive a refund for the ad, but expects to get one.
“Greg Abbott (…) has taken a stand on how to deal with COVID which we believe to be anathema to good government, good public health and good public safety,” Wilson said. “And part of what our organization does is hold people to account on issues like this.”
On Friday, Abbott signed a border security financing bill which allocated about $ 750 million more in spending for the construction of a barrier along the Texas-Mexico border, increasing the state’s total investment for the wall to about $ 1 billion.
Abbott has banned agencies and political entities that receive public funds in Texas from instituting compulsory vaccines and masks Even as Texas faces an increase in COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations.
Despite this, nearly 100 school districts, as well as many counties and at least one city – which is home to nearly half of the population of Texas – demand masks in defiance of Abbott, according to one. listing maintained by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The Lincoln Project said in a statement it would file a public registration application with UT and Abbott to see if there had been any communications between them “in relation to this First Amendment protected speech. “.
“We will not be discouraged by Governor Abbott’s radicalism in favor of his own political outlook and his re-election campaign,” the statement said. “We’re not done with Governor Abbott.”