BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A New Orleans judge ordered Republican groups to remove their TV attack ad against Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards from the air Wednesday after a lawsuit challenged the ad’s claims as “demonstrably false.”
The temporary restraining order from Civil District Judge Nakisha Ervin-Knott gives a victory to the Democratic governor, who is seeking a second term in a tight race against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. The decision comes only days before Saturday’s election.
“These ads have been disgracefully false from the beginning, and now a court of law has made that official,” Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement.
The 30-second ad claims Edwards gave his West Point roommate Murray Starkel favorable treatment in contracting for coastal project work. It was run by two GOP-backed groups, Truth in Politics and the Causeway Connection PAC.
Republican state Sen. Conrad Appel, chairman of Causeway Connection, said the PAC intends to appeal the ruling, calling the ads “100% truthful.”
Truth in Politics — which is co-founded by Rispone friend Lane Grigsby — tweaked the initial ad, changing some of its wording, after facing blowback about inaccuracy. Ervin-Knott ordered even the reworked ad to come down, in response to a lawsuit filed by Edwards supporter and New Orleans resident Linda Kocher.
The initial spot said Starkel landed a state contract worth up to $65 million. The revised version said Starkel is “poised to cash in” on lucrative work. But Starkel’s firm hasn’t received a state deal, and is instead among several companies prequalified to bid for possible coastal contracts.
Appel issued a statement saying the public should know “if the governor’s best friend was engaged in backroom deals.” He called the advertisements “legitimate free speech and fully sourced.”