In the News and on the Air: Call Me!

Calling off an ad. We've spent much of the last day and night untangling a controversy involving power, sex, race and a campaign commercial.

A commercial in Tennessee, paid for by the Republican National Committee, featured a breathy, bare-shouldered blonde woman who looks at the camera and pants, "Harold: call me."

"Harold" Ford is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. He's black, and the woman is white.

The NAACP found the implication of interracial sex to be a blatant appeal to racist white voters. Even Ford's Republican opponent called for the ad to be dropped.

In our interview, Republican national chairman Ken Mehlman said, "People who I respect have raised concerns." He goes on to say, "I don't believe that this ad makes the Republican Party look like racists."

Shortly after our interview was recorded, the Republican Party called back to say the ad is going off the air.

You can hear the interview at 8:40 a.m. Eastern on many NPR stations, and again two hours later on the west coast.

There is, by the way, a reason that Republicans raised the issue of sex and Harold Ford.

Ford, who is a bachelor, attended a Playboy Super Bowl party in Jacksonville, Fla. in 2005.

Asked about this, the Democrat denied going to the "Playboy mansion" but said he did go to the Super Bowl party, explaining, "I like football, and I like girls."

Gay Rights Ruling. A New Jersey court ruling brings gay rights back to the news — and could add this controversial social issue to the political agenda.

NPR's Nancy Solomon reports that the ruling says that "every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples."

Cheney Carries In. In one Wisconsin district, the major issue is Iraq (the major issue so far, anyway — still days and days to go!)

NPR's Don Gonyea visited a normally reliable Republican district that now seems like it could go either way.

He followed in the footsteps of Vice President Cheney, who had paid a campaign visit to the Golden Basket Restaurant in Green Bay, where waitress Bonnie Leroy noticed something.

"He brought his own food in — you know he wouldn't eat the food that was here for safety reasons. It was for his own protection..."

The Big Question: What's the rule on tipping if you bring your own food?

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