The :30 Second Candidate
Attack ads proved especially effective as George Bush aggressively challenged Michael Dukakis on prison furloughs, national defense, and the polluting of Boston harbor in Dukakis' home-state of Massachusetts.

One ad showed Dukakis looking uncomfortable riding a tank. Another showed prisoners going in and out of jail through a revolving door to criticize Governor Dukakis' granting of furloughs to prisoners. Furloughs were the subject of the most controversial ad of the election. "Willie Horton" told the story of a prisoner furloughed from Massachusetts who committed a heinous crime in another state. The ad used a menacing mug shot of an African-American criminal and was widely denounced as appealing to racial prejudices.

The ad was also controversial because it was not produced by the Bush campaign. A political action committee not affiliated with Bush paid for the ad in an early example of outside groups using ads to effect an election.

previousnextgo back to the timeline

PBS Online

© 1998-2001 Wisconsin Public Television, All rights reserved.