Attack Ads, YouTube-Style

Somebody out there really, really doesn't want Darrell Watson to win the city-council seat in District 8. And he or she is using YouTube in an attempt to undermine his campaign.

Of course, other media outlets have presented material about Watson that doesn't exactly qualify as good publicity -- most notably the Denver Post, which published March 16's "District 8 Hopeful Pleaded Guilty," about a 2003 incident in which Watson received a deferred sentence in a wrongs-to-a-minor case. Prior to the appearance of the article, Watson sent out the following note in an attempt to limit the damage:

In tomorrow's Denver Post there will be a story about me and a misdemeanor charge that I received in 2003 of wrongs to a minor. Child protective services found no abuse and the charge of misdemeanor was given to the child's biological father and to me. It was the lowest possible charge that could be given.

The facts of this story are simple. My partner, at the time, and I had custody of his six year old son and on the day in question, there was a disciplinary issue with the child. When "time out" did not work, I was instructed to spank the child by both biological parents, while the father was present. As agreed in family counseling, the spanking was three swats with my bare hand on the child's rear. After I spanked the child, the behavior did not change and the biological father then spanked the child again with three swats on the rear. On the following weekend visit with the biological mother, she said there was a small mark on the child's rear end and she notified the authorities.

When my attorney stated this could and should be fought in court, I decided that it was more important to preserve my family, protect the child and to make this end.

Growing up with a loving, supportive mother and seven siblings, there is nothing more important to me than family. I am deeply sorry that all of this happened.

Sincerely, Darrell Watson

Since the Post report hit print, three faux election spots have turned up on YouTube -- and all of them use pop songs to underline their anti-Watson points. This salvo intersperses shots of Watson's campaign logo with the slogan "Sometimes a great city needs a good spanking!," all set to the tune of Devo's "Whip It." The theme is similar on this offering, which uses a cover version of Ian Dury's "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick" to underscore photo-illustrations of Mayor John Hickenlooper (a snapshot of his head is affixed to the cartoon body of a diaper-clad infant) and the phrase "Denver needs DISCIPLINE."

Yet another example of YouTubery broadens the assault. To the tune of the Carpenters performing the Beatles' "Ticket to Ride," graphics pose a series of questions before adding a snide conclusion: "So what if he steals rides on RTD? So what if he exaggerates his accomplishments? So what if he pleads guilty to child abuse? So what? So Watson!"

Such nastiness, which sports absolutely no documentation to support its assorted charges, would never be approved for airing on TV or radio. On the Internet, though, such rules don't apply, especially when those throwing stones are doing so anonymously. The web may help politicians when it comes to raising funds and communicating with supporters. But it's also got a negative side, as Watson is learning all too well. -- Michael Roberts

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts