Jeffery Self and Ryan J. Davis.
Judging by some of the responses on YouTube.com to a video praising the pro-gay stance of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the one-minute piece has done its job.
“It's absolutely an attack ad,” said Ryan J. Davis, who, along with Jeffery Self, produced the video. “I wanted to start a conversation about Rudy Giuliani and his history with the gay community.”
The video, titled “Gays For Giuliani: A Gay Leader,” features three gay men who call Giuliani a “gay leader,” talk about wanting to thank him for supporting civil unions, and, as the theme from the television show “The West Wing” swells, one young man says, “I would be hard pressed to think of any conservative politician who embraces the gay community like Giuliani does.”
It can be seen as an “attack ad” only if you understand that Davis, who is gay, wants it played for conservatives who will then vote against Giuliani in the 2008 Republican primaries.
The video has been viewed more than 55,000 times on the site, though the number may be larger with people seeing it through links on other Web sites. Many of the nearly 200 commenters on YouTube.com understood the intent. Some did not.
“Shameful,” wrote one. “Goes to show how low hateful homophobes will stoop.”
Another, who partially understood, wrote, “Wow, this is early. Republicans usually wait until the final weeks of an election before they pull out the 'homosexual bogeyman' to put a scare into the brainless legions of Fox News zombies. I guess small comfort can be taken by the fact that at least this time a Republican is using it against another Republican. (Very small comfort.) I wonder how many mouth-breathers think this is real?”
One commenter wrote that the video is “A backhanded swipe at Giuliani… but an anti-gay video as well, as it implies that being pro-gay is in and of itself a liability and that gays are sexually immoral/unrestrained.”
That is presumably a reference to one actor who proudly proclaims that he has had “no less than five domestic partners.”
Davis, 25, wants to create a political action committee to raise funds that will be used to run the ad on television stations in South Carolina so voters in that early Republican primary state can see it.
“South Carolina is the first in the South,” Davis said. “It's important. He's already doing badly in Iowa and New Hampshire.”
When Davis looks at the Republican presidential field, he sees Giuliani as that party's best shot to win the White House in 2008. That makes Giuliani the candidate who needs to be knocked out of the race.
“I would like to see a more beatable Republican,” he said. “I don't think they have a candidate besides Giuliani who can bring the party together.”
While he did hold pro-gay stances as mayor, Davis believes that a President Giuliani would be different.
“I don't think he would be a friend to the gay community if he was elected,” Davis said.
Giuliani would also be bad for America, Davis added.
“He's too much of an authoritarian,” he said. “He would use our Army as his own personal militia. We've already had a president who did that and it was a disaster.”
The ad has won a mixed reception. Some gay bloggers have been unhappy with it because it plays to anti-gay impulses. Some have even called Davis homophobic.
He is unapologetic about appealing to anti-gay views.
“It wasn't in the best taste in ads in this election cycle, but would those liberals like to see Giuliani as president?” Davis said. “This is a war. We're at war.”
Davis would do “anything within the bounds of what's legal” to win that war. The Giuliani campaign did not respond to a request for comment. Right wingers have had a mixed response.
“It's been all over the place,” Davis said. “Conservative bloggers have really taken to it especially ones who are not Giuliani supporters… If they like a candidate who is to the right of Giuliani they love it. If they support Giuliani, they don't like it at all.”
Self and Davis interviewed 11 actors and ultimately used three who were not paid. They shot nearly two hours of tape that were used to make the ad. Davis already owned the video camera so it only cost him the price of two tapes.
Davis was once a “libertarian Republican” and he was raised in a liberal Roman Catholic household.
“I was actually the conservative one in the family,” he said. Now he is “pretty left-leaning.” For an interview, Davis wore a T-shirt that read “Make levees not war.” He attended religious schools for much of his education through high school, but today he is “pretty atheist.”
His politics have clearly moved to the left. Davis worked for Howard Dean's presidential campaign for roughly eight months and then for Mark Green's New York attorney general campaign last year for five months. Most of his professional life has been in off-Broadway theater.
“I've done a lot of assistant directing,” he said. “I have a wide range of theater experience.”
Davis worked with Joe Drymala on “White Noise,” a musical, and “Breaking In,” an online comedy. Davis and Self produced “Big Tent,” a musical about Tammy Faye Bakker Messner, and “Mr. Broadway 2007,” a beauty pageant and fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth.
Davis plans additional ads targeting Giuliani and he also plans on producing some ads that hit Hillary Clinton, the New York senator and leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president.
“She's been a disaster on the war,” Davis said. He is not yet backing a particular Democrat.
“I'm for a change candidate,” he said. “I think we've had enough of this insider Washington government.”