Pro-Trump Group Running Fake Obama Ads

Anti-Biden ads using the former President's words are being aimed at black voters.

A bizarre report from Michael Scherer and Anu Narayanswamy in WaPo (“Obama demands South Carolina TV stations pull misleading ad attacking Biden“):

Former president Barack Obama on Wednesday called on South Carolina television stations to stop running an ad from a super PAC supporting President Trump that uses Obama’s words out of context in a misleading attack on former vice president Joe Biden.

The Committee to Defend the President, a pro-Trump group, circulated an ad that falsely suggests that words Obama spoke in the narration of his own 1995 book were meant to describe Biden.
The group, which placed a similar amount of anti-Biden advertising in Nevada earlier this month, reported to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday spending more than $250,000 in South Carolina to oppose Biden.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” Katie Hill, Obama’s communications director, said in a statement. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

[…]

An attempt to sway black voters in the state, the ad begins with a narrator saying “Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here’s President Obama.”

The ad then runs audio of Obama reading an unrelated passage from his book, “Dreams from My Father,” about a conversation he had with a barber in Chicago when he was a community organizer.

The Obama passage, which describes the mistreatment of black voters by politicians, refers to complaints about “plantation politics” and the history in Chicago of Democratic politicians expecting black votes despite poor housing, poor job opportunities and police brutality.

The ad repurposes a similar attack the Committee to Defend the President ran last year in several states with many black politicians, including Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana, according to PolitiFact. Similar tactics, aimed at decreasing black turnout for Democrats, were used in a radio ad by another pro-Trump super PAC, Great America Alliance, in the 2017 special House election in Georgia.

Here’s the ad in question:

It’s so transparently not about Biden—and, frankly, nonsensical—that one questions how effective it could possibly be.

Greg Sargent explains the intent:

“Joe Biden promised to help our community,” the ad’s narrator intones. “It was a lie — here’s Barack Obama.”

The ad then features audio of Obama that sounds as if he’s denouncing Democratic politicians for selling out black people. At the same time, the screen flashes references in white letters to what appears to be the controversy last spring about Biden’s comments about segregationist senators, and his support for the 1994 crime bill.

The ad makes it sound as if Obama is referring to those episodes while denouncing Biden as someone who betrayed the African American community. But it turns out the audio is actually of Obama reading a passage from his 1995 memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” which features a character in the book talking about what Chicago politics was like for African Americans long ago.

In other words, the ad features Obama reading from his own 25-year-old book, mimicking the words of a separate character, to make it sound as if Obama is denouncing Biden (who you may recall was Obama’s vice president) for selling out African Americans.

While I’m dubious this will be effective, it’s an unconscionable tactic that has no place in a democratic society. It’s rather shocking that television stations wouldn’t have rejected these without prodding.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2020, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. DeD says:

    It’s rather shocking that television stations wouldn’t have rejected these without prodding.

    That ad money, though.

    Good morning, James.

    13
  2. An Interested Party says:

    Looks like Biden really does scare the Trump campaign and, probably, Trump himself…

    3
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    While I’m dubious this will be effective, it’s an unconscionable tactic that has no place in a democratic society. It’s rather shocking that television stations wouldn’t have rejected these without prodding.

    I find your naivete rather touching James. (s// i think) The once every 4 years electoral ad bonanza is literally money in the bank. Besides, hasn’t trump proven once and for all that truth doesn’t matter?

    Just out of curiosity, (i can’t read WaPo) do you know which stations are running these ads? FOX? Sinclair? CNN? MSNBC? Greed triumphs, but if greed can ally with a political pov at the same time, what’s not to like?

    4
  4. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Far as I can tell, the article in the WaPo doesn’t specify which stations are running the ad.

  5. wr says:

    @An Interested Party: “Looks like Biden really does scare the Trump campaign and, probably, Trump himself…”

    I think they’ve got enough money to go after just about anybody…

    3
  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I suspected as much, but seeing as I hate to engage in irresponsible speculation I had to ask. Now that I have relieved myself of responsibilities I am free to speculate without shame.

    1
  7. An Interested Party says:

    I think they’ve got enough money to go after just about anybody…

    True, and I’m sure in the general election they’d much rather go after Sanders…

    1
  8. Fortunato says:

    “it’s an unconscionable tactic that has no place in a democratic society.”

    One of our two parties has placed this tactic front and center in our democratic society for more than 30 years.

    The Willie Horton ad was 1988.
    Swift Boating is now a common pejorative neologism.

    There was of course a time when even Republicans wouldn’t air such filth. Reagan limited his “strapping young bucks” allegory to stump speeches.

    The ad running is South Carolina reaches all the way back to embrace Lee Atwater and his “ni**er, ni**er, ni**er” tale.
    You can bet your ass that the pink, chortling clowns who fund the Trump PAC that aired this ad were slappin’ their knees when putting together this vulgarity. You can rest assured that in selecting a sound clip where Obama had affected the voice (southern plantation) of his hypothetical black voter, the Trump sycophants were simply overcome with a giddy joy.
    They had crafted for themselves a veritable symphony of dog whistles.

    It will be this ad, x1000, that will flood social media in the coming months.
    And, barring an all-out pandemic, Trump’s approval rating throughout this GOP crafted and disseminated carnage, flagellation and debauchery will never fall below 90% among Republicans.

    Which brings us back to:
    “it’s an unconscionable tactic that has no place in a democratic society.”

    This ad is in fact, perfectly representative of republican society.
    Republican society of the last 40+ years.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @DeD: @OzarkHillbilly: Oh, sure, I get that they get paid for the ads and they exist to make money. But I thought they had FCC obligations to scren against obvious fraud. I presume there are other ads waiting in line but maybe not.

    3
  10. just nutha says:

    @James Joyner: Except this doesn’t strike me as obvious fraud. The passage quoted can be claimed to be analogous to the situation that would happen in a Biden Presidency. You and I wouldn’t buy such a crock, but that doesn’t void the argument enough to assert fraud.

    2
  11. Tyrell says:

    We are seeing more and more of the fake ads and interviews. The news media/corporate complex is too closely connected to political parties. I see “reporters” and commentators out on the trail doing interviews with the people that are obviously staged and scripted. Both sides are doing it. They no longer even have the pretense of being balanced and neutral. I don’t see these commentators discussing and talking with politicians from both parties. That is proof of their partiality. But most people today pay little heed to the main stream networks. They are getting their news from internet sources and social media; which seem to be increasingly censoring some of the sites and commentators.
    I do have some suggestions that might could change this situation and restore some trust in the news media. I will present these later.

    1
  12. Michael says:

    South Carolina is our penance for allowing slavery to exist under the Constitution.

    1
  13. DrDaveT says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I thought they had FCC obligations

    James, have you been asleep? Regulations only apply when the administration chooses to enforce them. There is no FCC; there is no EPA, there is no FDA, unless Trump wants there to be.

    Are you afraid yet?

    1