NU Online News Service, April 24, 3:58 p.m. – The Health Insurance Association of America, Washington, says it has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the new Harry and Louise television commercials that support human cloning research.

Goddard Clausssen Porter Novelli, Washington, developed the Harry and Louise characters in 1994, for an HIAA advertising campaign that attacked former President Clinton’s health care finance proposals.

Now, the same ad agency is using the same down-to-earth characters in a series of commercials for CuresNow, Washington, a nonprofit group that opposes President Bush’s efforts to ban human cloning research. The Wall Street Journal ran an article about the campaign today at the bottom of page B1.

Supporters of the proposed human cloning research ban argue that even the most basic cloning research would lead to massive destruction of human embryos, and could eventually lead down a slippery slope to horrors straight out of a science fiction movie.

Opponents of the ban say properly regulated basic research on cloned human cells that are just a few days old could lead to enormous advances in areas such as stem-cell research and organ transplant research without destroying anything that resembles a human being.

HIAA has no official position on cloning research, but it is expressing official shock at the idea of Harry and Louise appearing in the CuresNow commercials.

Dr. Donald Young, HIAA’s president, put out a statement earlier today saying he was “stunned” by the news of the cloning research campaign.

“Let there be no confusion,” Young says. “The Health Insurance Association of America has no involvement in the current advertising campaign and does not support or condone it.”

HIAA will use every means at its disposal to stop the use of what it believes to be its image, Young adds.

“In the public mind, Harry and Louise represent the views of HIAA and the health insurance industry,” Young says. “To co-opt them for another client and another purpose is at best sleight-of-hand and at worst identity theft.”

HIAA has been calling around to investigate its legal options, a spokesman says.

CuresNow referred requests for comments to Goddard Claussen.

Goddard Claussen issued a statement by Ben Goddard, the firm’s founding partner, noting that “Harry” and “Louise” are two real actors, Harry Johnson and Louise Caire Clark.

The actors agreed to appear in the cloning research commercials because of their strong personal interest in promoting what they believe to be important medical research, Goddard says.

HIAA did not trademark the “Harry & Louise” name, and the actors were under contract to HIAA for only two years after the commercials first appeared, Goddard says.

Goddard wrote and produced the CuresNow commercials for free, and Ms. Clark donated her union scale fee to CuresNow, Goddard Claussen says.