SALT LAKE CITY — Comcast announced Thursday it will not run a TV commercial that it determined demeans the LDS Church.
Activist Fred Karger paid approximately $2,000 to run the ad 54 times in Utah markets to kick off what he called "the biggest, loudest, most comprehensive challenge to a church's tax-exempt status in history."
Comcast issued a written explanation on Thursday, saying the ad did not meet its standards. The statement was issued by Tara Hunter, Comcast Spotlight's senior director of integrated communications.
The statement reads: "Comcast Spotlight, the advertising sales division of Comcast Cable, reviews ads on a case-by-case basis for compliance with our guidelines. Upon review, the ad did not comply with our guidelines because the client was unwilling to provide substantiation for their claims and we do not accept ads that demean individuals or specific organizations. We offered to review any additional spots the client was interested in airing."
Karger said Comcast had scheduled the 30-second ad to run for seven days beginning on Wednesday, adding that a Comcast representative called him late Tuesday to tell him the company was reconsidering. Comcast informed Karger Wednesday night that it would not run the commercial.
"They told me the reason was that it was demeaning an organization," Karger said. "It's an accurate and fair spot, and I'm upset someone has quashed my free speech."
Hunter told the Deseret News that the company uses a case-by-case review process for potential ads, saying "there was never an approval nor a change of mind."
Karger previewed a longer version of the ad at a news conference on Tuesday, when he announced a campaign to build a case against the church's tax-exempt status. The longer spot makes claims about the total income of the church's for-profit businesses and makes allegations about practices and policies within the church. Reporters asked Karger to substantiate several claims made in the longer version of the ad, but he did not provide specifics.
He held out hope that Comcast CEO Bruce Roberts will overturn the decision.
"I sent a letter appealing to Mr. Roberts to do the right thing," Karger said. "I don't have the resources to take on the world's largest cable company."
Karger has opposed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on gay rights issues from New England to Hawaii since the 2008 Proposition 8 race in California.
Karger also purchased air time over a different cable system in St. George, but he wasn't sure Thursday morning whether those ads are airing.