HIAA Denounces Use of ‘Harry and Louise’ Ad Supporting Therapeutic Cloning
The Health Insurance Association of America, which sponsored a television ad campaign in 1993 using the fictional couple "Harry and Louise" to attack President Clinton's health care reform plan, yesterday "denounced" the use of the characters in ads supporting therapeutic cloning, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Let there be no confusion: The Health Insurance Association of America has no involvement in the current advertising campaign and doesn't support or condone it," HIAA President Donald Young said in a statement (McGinley, Wall Street Journal, 4/25). The ads, which began airing last night in the Washington, D.C. area during an episode of NBC's "The West Wing," feature the same actors used in the HIAA campaign that helped "torpedo" Clinton's health care overhaul proposal. This time, instead of discussing health care reform, the couple is engaged in a conversation about a cloning bill (S 1899) sponsored by Sens. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), which would prohibit all forms of human cloning. At one point, Louise describes therapeutic cloning as research that uses an unfertilized egg and a skin cell. "Is it cloning?" Harry asks her. "No ... just lifesaving cures," Louise replies (California Healthline, 4/24). Young said he was "stunned to learn that characters so closely associated with HIAA are now being used in other ways without our foreknowledge and without our permission" (HIAA release, 4/24). He added, "To co-opt [the Harry and Louise characters] for another client and another purpose is at best sleight-of-hand and at worst identity theft" (Sarasohn, Washington Post, 4/25). HIAA is "exploring possible legal action" over the ads, he said (Congress Daily, 4/24). However, a spokesperson for Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli, the public-affairs and public-relations group that created both the new ad for CuresNow, a group of entertainment executives who support therapeutic cloning, and the old ad for HIAA, said that the Harry and Louise characters were not trademarked and noted that the actors who appeared in the ads were only under contract to HIAA for two years after the airing of the initial ads (Wall Street Journal, 4/25). To view the ad, go to pnm://184.108.40.206/220.127.116.11/curesnow.rm. Note: You will need RealPlayer to view the ad.
Brownback and other supporters of a total ban on human cloning responded angrily to the ads yesterday. Brownback called the ads' claim that therapeutic cloning is not really cloning "patently dishonest." At a news conference yesterday, he said, "Cloning is cloning is cloning. Whether the use of the cloning procedure is employed for the purposes of bringing a clone to live birth -- or for the purposes of destroying it during research -- it is still wrong" (Brownback release, 4/24). Brownback added that the somatic cell nuclear transfer technique described in the ad is the "same process used to create Dolly the sheep. We don't want it ever used to create humans" (Pelton, Baltimore Sun, 4/25). William Kristol, chair of Stop Human Cloning, said, "According to the biotech lobby, an embryo isn't an embryo and a clone isn't a clone. Harry and Louise, meet George Orwell." He said his group should have the text of a response ad ready today (Stop Human Cloning release, 4/24). Janet Zucker, a movie producer and co-founder of CuresNow, defended the ad, saying supporters of therapeutic cloning "fe[lt] a need that we must reply" to ads sponsored by "far right" groups that are running across the nation (Carter, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/24). The Harry and Louise ads will be aired in the home states of several key lawmakers in coming weeks, and CuresNow, which is a member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, is planning to enlist the support of several celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding Jr., to speak in support of therapeutic cloning (Bjerga, Wichita Eagle, 4/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.