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Ottawa Notebook

Liberal photo contest takes macabre turn Add to ...

Rick Mercer's advice to Liberals: "First rule of photoshop - no posting of penis pics on politicians' heads. Second rule - no assassinations."

The comedian's guidance comes as Stephen Harper is depicted being assassinated by Jack Ruby on a Liberal website. Not surprisingly there is outrage in the Tory ranks.

In the doctored photograph - which you can view here, though the image may be disturbing to some readers - Mr. Harper's face is photoshopped over that of Lee Harvey Oswald in the famous photo that captured Mr. Ruby shooting Mr. Oswald, after the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

The fake shot was part of a contest launched by Michael Ignatieff's Liberals, poking fun at Mr. Harper for dithering about whether attending the Copenhagen climate conference. The Liberals asked supporters to have some fun by putting the Prime Minister anywhere but in Copenhagen: "Your mission, should you accept it, is to pick an image that will haunt Stephen Harper forever," the Liberal Party website says.

They offered prizes, including a t-shirt and coffee cup. Apparently, the Grits received about 75 submissions, including the assassination-attempt one.

This morning, a senior Liberal official said the picture had been taken down. "That one slipped by and should not have been posted," he said. "Mind you, coming from them, it feels like Attila the Hun complaining about the Romans' table manners."

(Remember, the pooping Puffin? The Tories put that out during the last federal campaign, in which a puffin defecated on Stéphane Dion's shoulder. That was juvenile, and spurred howls from the Liberal ranks.)

The Prime Minister's spokesman Dimitri Soudas, meanwhile, said today the Conservatives "won't dignify this with a response."

He added: "Mr. Ignatieff should comment, not us, as this incident reflects on Mr. Ignatieff's judgment."

Now, what about Mr. Mercer? He's had some experience with this.

"We run a photoshop contest at RMR [his CBC television show, Rick Mercer Report] I can't tell you how many pics we get of people's heads on Lee Harvey Oswald's body," he told The Globe today. "Common sense and good taste mean we don't post them.

"I'm surprised parties attempt this stuff - they always screw up. Either they are guilty of poor taste like this Liberal attempt or they come off as idiotic and not funny such as the strange Conservative websites accusing Iggy of being too well-educated."


Update The Prime Minister's office has issued talking points on the story. Here's the full text:

From: Alerte-Info-Alert <Alerte-Info-Alert@pmo-cpm.gc.ca>

To: Alerte-Info-Alert <Alerte-Info-Alert@pmo-cpm.gc.ca>

Sent: Tue Dec 15 10:51:07 2009

Subject: Please do not comment on Liberals' Harper Assassination photo

The Ignatieff Liberals have prominently featured on their website a doctored photo showing the Prime Minister being assassinated.

The photo, eventually pulled down as a result of news media coverage, is part of the Liberal Party's doctored-photo contest. This exercise is moderated, meaning that Ignatieff's office approves all items before they are posted.

This is an official Liberal Party contest -- promoted by Mr. Ignatieff's outgoing national director and hosted on the official Liberal.ca website.

Once again, Conservatives are not commenting on this behaviour. It reflects only on Michael Ignatieff and his Liberal Party.

Consequently, please do not respond to media inquiries about this immaturity. We have nothing to explain; that's up to Mr. Ignatieff.

The Liberals have posted the following apology on the contest website:

A note to all viewers:

We thank all participants in this photo challenge who have submitted their entries for consideration. Our intent was to engage Canadians concerned about the Prime Minister's reluctance to attend the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

The photos here are created by visitors to our website, and do not always reflect the views of the Liberal Party of Canada. Though we continue to screen submissions before posting, we have removed certain images that may have been offensive to some viewers.

We apologize for any offence these images may have caused, and continue to strive to present a progressive and dynamic web experience for our site visitors.


The Web Team

And war-room strategist Warren Kinsella has also weighed in, calling the episode dumb and invoking "the reverse-Vegas principle: what happens online doesn't ever stay online."

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