Television stations in North Carolina made the unusual decision on Friday to take down an attack ad against Cheri Beasley, a Democratic Senate candidate, after complaints that the ad falsely accused Ms. Beasley of freeing a man convicted on charges of possessing lewd images of children when she served as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The ad, made by the Republican Senate campaign arm, highlighted the case of “a child porn offender,” and it accused Ms. Beasley of having “voted to set him free.” A female narrator spoke ominously over images of a young girl and jail bars sliding open.
On Friday, five TV stations in Raleigh and Charlotte said they would pull the ad or that they had “paused” it pending an examination of its claims, according to emails from the stations to Courtney Weisman, a lawyer working for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which were reviewed by The New York Times.
On Thursday, two Charlotte stations took the ad off the air. A representative for the stations, WXAN and WSCO, explained in an email to Ms. Weisman that the ad’s claim about Ms. Beasley “is in error, as it appears the defendant was not set free” by the State Supreme Court decision.
The case that led to removal of the North Carolina ad involved a man named James Howard Terrell Jr., who was convicted in 2016 of possessing lewd images of minors on a computer thumb drive.
An appeals court ruled that a detective had conducted an illegal search of the thumb drive, in violation of Mr. Terrell’s Fourth Amendment rights, and it sent the case back down to the trial court.
In 2019, the State Supreme Court, with Ms. Beasley in the majority, upheld that ruling. As of May 2020, Mr. Terrell was still in prison, according to court records, and it was on that basis that Ms. Weisman, the Democratic lawyer, demanded the ad be taken down. “To claim that her vote somehow resulted in a defendant being ‘set … free’ is false,” she wrote.
A lawyer for the Republican campaign arm, in a letter to TV stations about the ad, argued that North Carolina court records for Mr. Terrell state that his convictions were “vacated” after the Supreme Court heard the case. The lawyer, Ryan G. Dollar, accused the Democratic lawyer of attempting to “gaslight” TV station managers. Court records indicate that Mr. Terrell is no longer incarcerated.