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Kathy Wickline Casting Responds to W. Va Campaign Ad Casting Controversy

Email from Jamestown to Wickline.9.29.10 After a week of denials and shifting blame, Politico reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committe (NRSC) acknowledged this morning that the derogatory language used in a casting call for a GOP campaign attack ad in West Virginia did not come from the casting director, but rather Jamestown Associates, a media consulting firm hired directly by the NRSC.

Until today, it was believed that the word "hicky" -- which was used to describe the desired blue-collar look of actors hired for the commercial, in a document that had been sent to the actors and was later leaked to the press via Democrats -- was inserted into the casting language by the talent agent. Not true, says the commercial's Philadelphia-based casting director, Kathy Wickline, and her lawyer.

Even though Wickline was not named in most news reports or commentary on the story, she felt that her reputation had been tarnished by the unfair finger-pointing.  "She cut and pasted the language [from Jamestown], and they’ve thrown her under the bus," Charles K. Graber, a lawyer who is representing the casting office in respect to the matter, told Politico today.

"When originally confronted last week, they flatly denied having anything to do with the unacceptable language, and we took them at their word," the NRSC said in a statement regarding Jamestown's responsibility in the controversy. "Upon learning these facts this morning, the NRSC immediately fired Jamestown Associates."

Graber wrote in a press release on behalf of Kathy Wickline Casting this morning:

Last week it was reported that Kathy Wickline Casting was responsible for crafting language in a booking sheet indicating that “We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look” in respect to a political commercial concerning the election for United States Senator from West Virginia. After waiting many days for others to do it, Kathy is now forced to come forward to correct the record and to reclaim her name. She does so today by stating a simply truth: “It wasn’t me.”

NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh said:

"Because we did not know the truth, we have made incorrect statements over the last eight days, and we regret doing so. The NRSC unequivocally denounces the offensive language that Jamestown Associates used in producing this ad.

"We apologize to any West Virginia voter who may have been offended by this firm’s actions, and we extend our apologies to Kathy Wickline and all those who were misled as a result of Jamestown Associates’ actions. The NRSC will have no further dealings, now or ever, with Jamestown Associates, but they were our vendor and we take responsibility for this unfortunate matter."

In response, Jamestown Associates issued the following statement:

"A private communication in an email to the talent agency from an independent contractor we hired to organize production apparently used the term 'hicky' to describe the look for the actors needed for a television spot. The talent agency copied this email and sent it to the actors and their agents. This email from the talent agency was subsequently leaked by someone to the press. We apologize for any embarrassment this may have caused to any of the parties and have resigned from the account."

Take a look at the original email to Wickline from Kristen McLaughlin at Jamestown Associates. This email clearly includes the phrase, "We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look."

Email from Jamestown to Wickline.9.29.10

 Read the full press release from Kathy Wickline Casting below:

“IT WASN’T ME”: KATHY WICKLINE, PRESIDENT OF KATHY WICKLINE CASTING, COMMENTS UPON THE INACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF HER COMPANY REGARDING WEST VIRGINIA POLITICAL COMMERCIAL

KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. October 14, 2010.

Kathy wickline Kathy Wickline has been a leader in the casting and entertainment business for decades. Through hard work, focus and dedication, she has built the company which bears her name into a leader in its field. Recent events, however, have tarnished her name. She and her company have been inundated with questions; they have been the focus of accusation and defamed in the national media. Kathy’s journey toward restoring her good name begins today.

Last week it was reported that Kathy Wickline Casting was responsible for crafting language in a booking sheet indicating that “We are going for a 'Hicky' Blue Collar look” in respect to a political commercial concerning the election for United States Senator from West Virginia. After waiting many days for others to do it, Kathy is now forced to come forward to correct the record and to reclaim her name. She does so today by stating a simply truth: “It wasn’t me.”

Not yet reported in the press is the following fact: In an email on September 29, 2010, at 4:27p.m, a copy of which accompanies this Release, a representative of Jamestown Associates, a political consulting group which retained Kathy Wickline Casting for its casting call services, forwarded to Ms. Wickline a description of what was being sought in respect to dress and atmosphere concerning the commercial at issue. That email – sent by Jamestown Associates to Kathy Wickline – contained the language in question; indeed, it contained, word for word, the information and language that Kathy simply forwarded as the “booking sheet” for the commercial in question six minutes later. Ms. Wickline did not write the language. It was written and offered by a third-party and contained in the email sent to her by Jamestown Associates.

“Unfortunately, over the last seven days, people who know better – who know the truth - have allowed the role of Kathy Wickline Casting to be misconstrued and misrepresented. They have not told the public what they know,” states Ms. Wickline. Kathy Wickline Casting bore no responsibility for the script used in the commercial, the wardrobe requirements or where the commercial was shot. All such information was sent to her by Jamestown Associates, which also approved (and in some cases disapproved) the persons chosen through Ms. Wickline’s efforts to appear in the commercial.

Kathy Wickline Casting organized a casting call for potential actors to appear in the commercial. That is all that was asked of Ms. Wickline, and that, and that alone, is what she did. Ms. Wickline had no creative control or authority whatsoever.

Kathy Wickline has waited until today to clear the record, hoping, and expecting, that those responsible for crafting the language in question, for which she has been so criticized, would do what is right, and come forward and explain that Kathy Wickline Casting has been unfairly portrayed and targeted for attack. Because they have not done so, Kathy does so today. Ms. Wickline can simply not afford to hope that those responsible will step forward and correct the record. She does not have the luxury of time. She must ensure that her business – her livelihood – survives well past this month and this year.

This Release – by itself – cannot fully correct the wrongs committed. We hope, and we expect, that those responsible for the trashing of her name will finally come forward to accept
responsibility for their wrongs and for maligning her name and that of her business.

We should apologize to Ms. Wickline for own negligence in inadvertently participating in shifting the blame from the source to their scapegoat  (and criticizing the hypothetical practices of a then-unnamed casting director) in our earlier Blog Stage coverage of this story last week -- especially since the "casting call" in question was not a casting call at all.

Earlier this week, actor Damian Muziani explained to ABC News:

"You have to be careful with the terminology because there's a casting call and then there's what's known as a booking sheet... The word 'hick' or 'hicky' showed up on what's known as a booking sheet, which is only put out after the actors are already cast. So these three good buddies you see in the commercial already had the job and were already on board with their roles before getting this word 'hicky' on their booking sheet."

Read more about Muziani's take on the issue at Blog Stage. For more background information about this still-developing story and to watch the actual television ad, read our first Blog Stage post about the controversial commercial.

-- Daniel Lehman

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