David Goetzl of MediaPost.com reports today that CBS has “approved a script” for the Super Bowl ad produced by the group Focus on the Family. Tim Tebow and his mother Pam will be the centerpieces of the 30-second spot, which reportedly will fetch $2.8M.
Goetzl reports the Focus on the Family ad “will not carry a pro-life message — at least an overt one.” A spokesman for CBS said the network, “will review the video version of the spot before giving it the final green light, but does not anticipate any hurdles.”
There’s been a lot of debate about the ad, given that many view religion-based Focus on the Family as a political advocacy group. The group’s leader, Dr. James Dobson, is well-known for his on the record opposition to abortion, gay marriage and homosexuality.
Much of Dobson’s widely-recognized political influence is chronicled by Washington Post website Slate.com in a 2004 piece by Michael Crowley titled, “James Dobson, The Religious Right’s New Kingmaker.”
Part of the concern for the approval of an ad from a group fronted by Dobson is that in 2004, CBS rejected a Super Bowl ad produced by the United Churches of Christ. CBS Executive Vice President Martin Franks said at the time, “The network simply does not accept any advocacy advertising of any kind.”
That’s the context for the ad that you will see Tebow headlining on Super Bowl Sunday. For all I know, the spot will be a benign affirmation of family values - as interpreted by Tebow and his mom. No biggie.
(Focus on the Family Founder: “[gay marriage] will destroy the Earth.”)
A larger issue though is Tebow generating awareness for a group with a well-chronicled, aggressive anti-gay agenda. An agenda that is often interwined with political interests.
No better example of that is a speech Focus on the Family founder Dobson gave on behalf of United States Senator Tom Coburn at a political rally in Oklahoma City in 2004. The DAILY OKLAHOMAN reported from the event:
Dobson warned those attending the Friday afternoon rally at Oklahoma Christian University that the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman must be protected.
He cited examples of countries such as Norway that have allowed same-sex couples to marry as proof that fewer men and women get married. Dobson said 80 percent of children are born out of wedlock in Norway.
“Homosexuals are not monogamous. They want to destroy the institution of marriage,” Dobson said.
“It will destroy marriage. It will destroy the Earth.”
Dobson urged rally attendees to reach out to homosexuals and “bring them to Jesus.”
He also urged supporters in attendance to fast and pray on the Thursday and weekend before the Nov. 2 election and to go to the polls to elect Coburn to the Senate.
Dobson said a vote for (Coburn opponent) Carson, “even if you think he’s right,” would be a vote for U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D.; Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.; and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
“Patrick Leahy is a God’s people hater,” Dobson said.
“I don’t know if he hates God, but he hates God’s people.”
Dobson said Coburn was exactly the kind of senator Oklahoma needs.
“I am passionate in my support of Dr. Tom Coburn,” Dobson said.
“This man absolutely has to be sent back to Washington.”
In case you missed that, the guy who has long fronted the organization Tebow cut the Super Bowl spot for said that gay marriage will, “destroy the earth.”
To reiterate, the content of Tebow’s Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family is probably not the issue here. It’s his association with Dobson and the publicity he’ll bring to Dobson’s intolerant agenda.
Focus on the Family knows it can’t get away with airing its provocative views on abortion, gay marriage and homosexuality on a Super Bowl broadcast. But associating itself with Tebow to countless millions is the next best thing.
You wonder if Tebow knows the track record of the man who helped facilitate the Super Bowl ad he’ll appear in.
I hope not.
UPDATE: After I published this post, I spoke to a high-ranking network television executive not from CBS. I asked him why he thought CBS was clearing the Focus on the Family ad. He said, “I think it’s a money decision first and foremost, and Tebow’s presence gives them cover.”