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New Ad Played Mainly to Media, Bush Camp Says


George W. Bush's latest television commercial, questioning his rival's commitment to debate, is titled "Credibility." But it was the Bush campaign's own believability at issue Thursday, when it acknowledged the spot was created to draw reporters' attention more than that of viewers.

The ad attacking Vice President Al Gore will only air in a few markets, aides said. But they defended their prominent announcement Wednesday of the spot, which generated front-page attention in major newspapers.

"There is a long tradition in both parties and with all advocacy groups of seeking maximum attention for their ads," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "When we release our ads we seek maximum attention." Touting an ad buy, even a light one, he said, "serves viewers and reporters. They all get to see it and hear it."

The ad released Thursday charges that Gore is reversing an offer to debate Bush on two national talk shows. Gore said his offer is contingent on Bush accepting three other debates sponsored by a nonpartisan commission.

By Thursday afternoon, the spot had not run on broadcast television in any of the nation's largest 75 media markets, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, an independent monitoring service for The Times.

"This ad will not be remembered as a heavy media buy," one Bush aide said.

When they announced the ad and distributed the script to reporters traveling with Bush, aides said the spot would rotate with two other commercials the Texas governor is running in 21 states. But they declined to be specific about the markets where it would be seen.

The debate ad also prompted a letter Thursday from CNN to the Bush campaign, demanding that the ad be changed or withdrawn, because it includes unauthorized video from one of the company's talk shows.

According to a CNN executive, the letter, from Richard Davis, head of CNN's news standards and practices, read in part: "CNN does not approve the use of its interviews in political ads. It is CNN's policy not to allow such use of our interviews with political candidates," in order to maintain independence. The letter concluded: "I strongly urge Bush-Cheney 2000 to remove all CNN material from its latest ad."

CNN declined to comment about the letter.

Bush aides said the CNN complaint was "without any basis" because the law allows rebroadcast of portions of news programs.

CNN has lodged similar protests about use of their video with Democratic candidates in the past and recently with the Republican National Committee. NBC also complained to the Republican National Committee last month for an attack ad that featured one of its news interviews with Gore.

The current debate ad also cites an NBC interview, but NBC hasn't protested.

"Generally we're not comfortable getting dragged into a political debate, but we don't protest an ad until there is a clear inaccuracy or an obvious lack of context," NBC News spokeswoman Barbara Levin said.

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