Scott Brown Ad Talks Family Physical Abuse; The 5 Most Uncomfortable Campaign Ads

In a new campaign ad, New Hampshire senate hopeful Scott Brown highlighted not his record as a job-creator, but rather, the physical abuse he endured as a child. The ad features his sister, LeAnn Riley, crediting Brown with guarding and caring for her during the abusive periods. “Scott was there to protect myself and my mom,” Riley says, and that’s what “made Scott who he is today.”

There’s an undeniable power to the commercial. It’s also more than a bit uncomfortable to watch; in a world of campaign ads about jobs, government spending, Obamacare and infrastructure projects, a 30-second spot about childhood abuse is something of an outlier. On the other hand, plenty of campaign ads have made us feel uncomfortable over the years. Some have used this tactic effectively; others, not so much. Here are a few that stick out.

Mike Gravel’s Rock

While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were duking it out in 2008, one of their common foes was former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel, who was making his own run for the Democratic presidential nomination. His campaign was entertaining, erratic, and at points, absolutely mystifying. It culminated in the release what may well be the most inscrutable and cryptic campaign ad of all time. Behold, the rock.

bilinsi on YouTube

The ad opens with Gravel, standing on a dreary-looking beach, staring silently into the camera with a slightly judgmental look on his face. He does nothing, and says nothing, for over a minute. All he does is stare into your soul. Then, having presumably made his point (whatever it was), the former senator walks toward the shore, picks up a rock, and throws it into the water. Then he walks away. And that’s it. That’s the ad.

Surprisingly, Gravel didn’t win the nomination.

Joni Ernst Makes ‘Em Squeal

Out of all the phrases you’d expect to hear in a campaign ad, “castrating hogs” is probably toward the bottom of the list. And yet Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for Iowa’s open senate seat, did indeed open one of her commercials with a hog castration metaphor, so, yeah, she’s probably the first candidate to do that.

Joni Ernst on YouTube

“I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, so when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork,” a smiling Ernst says in what looks like an empty pig pen. “Washington is full of big spenders. Let’s make ‘em squeal!”

In case the imagery wasn’t explicit enough, the ad closes with the sound of a squealing pig.

Local Official? Or Jedi?

Uncomfortable political ads can be found everywhere; they aren’t confined to federal elections. In his 2006 campaign for Rockingham County Board of Education, Christopher Knight decided to play up his last name for all it was worth, producing an ad that depicted himself as a, literally, a Jedi Knight, valiantly defending teachers and students from the forces of, umm, state government intervention in school administration.

Chris Knight on YouTube

“Let’s work together to defend a bright and shining future for the children of Rockingham county,” says Knight, wearing beige business-casual and swinging a light saber with, admittedly, a respectable degree of proficiency. But, still.

Bill Cassidy’s Umbrella

Speaking of mystifying, there are all sorts of weird things about this Bill Cassidy congressional ad from 2008. Why does it open with Cassidy’s wife revving up a generator? Why is Cassidy holding an umbrella? What does any of it have to do with oil drilling, the ostensible focus of the ad?

DailyKingfish on YouTube

Cassidy’s delivery is equally bizarre; his pauses and intonation are slightly unnatural, as if he was given his line five minutes before filming and only had one take to get them right. It also sounds, at times, as if he’s faking his accent.

Nevertheless, Cassidy won this election, and is now running for the Senate, so he was clearly on to something.

Worst Frozen Parody Ever?

Lastly, we have Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, who thought the best way to win reelection was to hop on the Frozen bandwagon. Yeah, it sounds like potentially maybe a good idea, but it wasn’t. This is what he came up with.

Team Dewhurst on YouTube

If anything could ruin Let it Go, this is it. No wonder Dewhurst is trailing in the race.