11 May 10 : 8.00AM
In an e-mail response to questions from The Nut Graph, the New York Times said: "The advertisement was placed by an ad agency on behalf of the Malaysian government."
The response from New York Times executive director of community affairs and media relations, Diane McNulty, reveals that the ad was not placed by private individuals, as suggested by the last line in the ad's congratulatory message.
McNulty, however, declined to disclose how much the ad cost, saying the company never discusses the cost of an individual ad as there are many variables and rates involved. These include the kind of schedule the ad purchaser has with the company, as well as the advertising category it falls within.
However, research on previous full-page ads taken out in the New York Times suggests that the cost of such advertisements ranges from US$180,000 to US$230,000. This amounts to between RM580,000 and RM740,000 for a one-page ad.
A two-page colour spread such as the one featuring Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor is expected to cost far more.
"Friends and family"
The ad was placed on 16 April 2010, on the last day of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's visit to the US, to congratulate Rosmah on her being conferred a little-known International Peace and Harmony Award.
The ad welcomed Rosmah as Malaysia's "First Lady" to New York, and carried the message: "In recognition of your effort to promote peace, harmony and understanding among the people of Malaysia and your courageous acts in making a difference to the lives of people and children around the world. Malaysia is proud of you."
It was signed off: "Best wishes from family and friends in USA and Malaysia."
The ad did not name the Business Council for International Understanding, the outfit that gave Rosmah the award.
Against a backdrop of controversies surrounding the hiring of media relations firm Apco Worldwide Sdn Bhd, and Rosmah's alleged interference in government matters, the two-page ad has stirred up gossip and blog postings about who paid for it.
It has also been noted that while Rosmah was prominently featured in the ad in a respected and established newspaper, US media coverage of Najib's visit and meeting with President Barack Obama was scant.
Malaysian Ambassador to the US Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis was pictured in Malaysian media showing US newspaper coverage in conjunction with Najib's visit. But as the DAP's Lim Kit Siang has pointed out, this appears to have been an advertorial in the Washington Times.
The New York Times's McNulty would not reveal which ad agency placed the order for the ad on behalf of the Malaysian government in her paper. But if the Malaysian government has hired an ad agency, why is taxpayers' money being used to promote Rosmah and an obscure award in the US, instead of the prime minister and the country?
Govt response pending
The Nut Graph contacted both Jamaluddin's office in Washington, DC and the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya last week about the government's involvement in the ad, and how much it cost.
Both offices confirmed having received The Nut Graph's questions, but neither has replied thus far.