‘Sambo’ Slur Costs Blogger

Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate pulled campaign ads from a bloggers’ Web site Thursday because the blogger had derided a black Republican candidate in Maryland as “Sambo.”

The campaign of Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine ordered the campaign ads pulled after it became aware of the Web site’s attack against Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, who announced for the Senate earlier this week.

Over a story about the announcement, the blog ran a headline saying, “Simple Sambo wants to move to the big house.” A photo of Steele was doctored to show him with white eyebrows and moustache and thick red lips. A caption under the photo said, “I’s simple Sambo and I’s running for the big house.’ ”

The blogger, Steve Gilliard, said the Kaine campaign had paid for a month of ads. He defended his attack on Steele and, after the Kaine campaign’s action, changed the Web site again to feature an attack on Kaine as a “coward” for pulling the ads.

“I guess they have a problem with black people expressing themselves in print,” Gilliard said. “At no point did they bother to ask me what I thought or why I did it.”

He said he made the attack because Steele has “refused to stand up for his people.”

Kaine’s campaign press secretary, Delacey Skinner, said, “We were obviously fairly upset about it and as soon as we could we discontinued the ads.”

She said the campaign has run ads on a number of different Internet sites. Ads on Gilliard’s Web site featured endorsements of Kaine from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Kaine is in a tight race in the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election with Virginia’s Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore.

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said the Kaine campaign clearly “did the right thing” in withdrawing the ads, but he said the attack on Steele illustrates the dangers of candidates using blogs to reach voters.

“The blogosphere is the wild, wild West of American elections. Candidates want to reach the blogs’ writers and readers, because almost all of them are voters and contributors. But the blogosphere is laden with nasty political traps, and this is a sad example,” said Sabato.

(Contact James W. Brosnan at BrosnanJ(at)shns.com)