In a $70,000 charm offensive, the Obama administration has begun airing ads across seven Pakistani television networks to condemn the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. The ads, intending to target 90 million Pakistanis, have already begun airing, reports Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, and they star President Obama and Hillary Clinton condemning the film in English but dubbed over in Urdu.
"As you know, after the video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the U.S. Government," Nuland told reporters. "So in order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis – some 90 million, as I understand it in this case with these spots – it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it."
In the ad, President Obama reportedly explains America's tradition of religious tolerance while Clinton says "We absolutely reject its content and message," as a caption on the ad reads "Paid Content," ending with the seal of the American Embassy in Islamabad. It's not clear by initial reports if the two U.S. leaders defend America's free speech laws.
News of the ad campaign comes today after the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad was the target of violent protests in which 11 were injured as Pakistan police shot live ammo and fired tear gas into crowds attempting to demonstrate in front of the embassy. Protesters vowed to demonstrate in front of the embassy again tomorrow, which will likely draw even larger crowds because Pakistan has declared Friday a holiday to allow citizens to protest the video. "We are very confident this will lessen the violence," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Hin Rabbani Khar, who conceded that "There will always be elements that will try to take advantage of these things."
No word yet if Obama's critics will use the news as evidence the president is "apologizing for America," a treasured talking point by the Romney campaign, but much will likely rely on the phrasing of the ad, which is not circulating online yet as far as we can tell.