AUSTIN – Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Sanchez on Friday fired a staff member who issued a casting call looking for black actors for background and white actors to criticize Republican Gov. Rick Perry in a commercial.
John Robert Wright, who posted an ad through the STAGE Web site for Dallas/Fort Worth-area actors, was fired from the campaign shortly after reporters started asking questions about it.
"What we had was an overzealous employee who has been dismissed from the campaign," said Sanchez spokesman Mark Sanders.
The casting call said the campaign needed "a couple of African Americans to help with a shot with Tony." They would be "background/customers" while Sanchez read a script in a TV commercial to be filmed in a body shop.
It also sought 10-15 people "who are willing to do testimonials on camera. I need a mix of people, with emphasis on Caucasian. They need to be willing to say something like `I am sick of Perry's negative attacks. Why won't he talk about issues that effect people like me?"'
It also said the campaign was looking for a "middle class neighborhood with a sidewalk for Tony to walk in and a friendly house for him to stage in."
Sanders said Sanchez didn't authorize the casting call.
"It was a total mistake, an error by an overzealous employee," Sanders said. "It really was just a kid who made a mistake who has been let go."
The Perry campaign circulated the casting call to reporters Friday morning.
"It shows how cynical and intellectually bankrupt Mr. Sanchez and his campaign really are," said Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan. "He's hiring people to say things they don't really believe to make attacks that aren't really true."
The casting call did not say if the actors were to be paid. Although it said the ads were to filmed on Friday, they were not, Sanders said. Sanchez did film a new ad in Dallas on Friday but without testimonials, he said.
"We don't need actors. People are coming out of the woodwork" to criticize Perry, Sanders said.
Tempers between the two sides flared this week with Perry's release of an ad that attacks Sanchez over drug money that was laundered through the Laredo's businessman's now-defunct Tesoro Savings & Loan in the 1980s. Sanchez has decried the ad as inaccurate and demanded an apology.
The Sanchez campaign on Friday unveiled a new attack ad on Perry, calling the drug money ad a lie and "made up." It is the second rebuttal ad Sanchez has released since Monday.
The new ad quotes newspaper accounts of a federal judge saying the Perry ad took one of his rulings out of context. It also accuses Perry of drawing false connections between Sanchez and former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.
Perry said this week he stands by the ad and will keep running it.