The Bill Johnson campaign for the 6th U.S. Congressional district in Southeast Ohio created a fake front page of the Akron Beacon Journal by removing actual headlines and photos from a Memorial Day weekend paper and replacing them with fictitious headlines attacking his opponent and her party.
The Beacon Journal demanded that the campaign immediately halt the use of the fake paper in an advertisement available on YouTube, on the campaign web site and reportedly aired on television.
The newspaper has a strict policy on the use of its content in campaign advertising. Nothing is to be altered.
The advertisement begins with a manís voice saying: Iím Bill Johnson and I approve this message. During the ad, labeled as a television advertisement, an image of the May 30, 2011, Beacon Journal front page is displayed, although the date is removed.
Because the stories and reportersí names can be identified, it was clear that the campaign used the Beacon Journalís Memorial Day weekend Monday front. The original story at the top of the page was on a local soldier killed in Afghanistan. While the story remained in place, the headline was changed to: ďDemocrats do it too.Ē A picture of a family resting at the Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery was replaced with a photo of Barack Obama. A picture of a man remembering a friend killed in Vietnam and the headline on that story were replaced with a photo and headline attacking Johnsonís opponent.
Campaign manager Sarah Poulton told the newspaper at 1 p.m. Wednesday that the advertisement would be addressed, but later referred all conversation to the campaignís lawyer, Mark Landes, who did not return a phone call from an editor.
The advertisement remained on the campaign web site late Wednesday evening.
Johnsonís 6th Congressional district includes Ohio River communities from East Liverpool south through Portsmouth on Ohioís southern tip. A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, Johnson is in a heated race against Democrat Jennifer Garrison. Garrison is a lawyer and has served in the Ohio legislature. Both are from Marietta.