With only a few days left until the midterm election, Donald Trump has stepped up his anti-immigration, fear-mongering, polarizing tactics with a blatantly racist new ad that even has some conservatives finally saying he’s gone too far.
Wednesday, the president pinned a video to the top of his Twitter feed that shows a convicted cop killer, smiling broadly and laughing in court while vowing to “kill more cops” if he is ever released.
The man in question is Luis Bracamontes, a twice-deported Mexican immigrant who was given the death penalty earlier this year for slaying two California law enforcement officers back in 2014, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Bracamontes is a ruthless murderer who made headlines for his lack of remorse and violent outbursts in court, but what the video wanted viewers to focus on is that he was in the United States illegally at the time of his daylong crime spree.
“Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” reads the text featured on the 53-second video.
“They’re dead. I don’t regret that,” announces Bracamontes during one of his infamous courtroom meltdowns. “I will break out soon and kill more!”
“Democrats let him into our country. . . . Democrats let him stay,” the text on the screen continues.
And as if the racist messaging wasn’t blatant enough, the video cuts to scenes of what appears to be the Central American migrant caravan crowding roadways and storming fences like a scene out of a zombie thriller.
Then a segment from Fox News shows a correspondent interviewing a man identified only as “deported immigrant in caravan,” who through a translator, requests to be pardoned for attempted murder.
“Who else would Democrats let in?” the text now asks while flashing back to Bracamontes’ evil grin. And as the fear-mongering reaches its peak, the screen goes black, and the words, “President Donald Trump and Republicans are making America safe again” pop up to reassure us all that we’re in good hands.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 31, 2018
A repeat of history
Trump shared this frightening visual aid with his 55.5 million Twitter followers, along with the caption “Vote Republican now!” and in under 24 hours it had already been viewed almost two million times.
Not surprisingly, the backlash was swift and focused, with the general consensus being that president Trump had ripped a page out of George H.W. Bush‘s book by channeling the infamous Willie Horton ad; a video that’s always haunted Bush Sr. as a moral low point in his political career.
During the 1988 presidential election, Roger Ailes – who would later go on to create the Fox News Channel in 1996 – masterminded a controversial commercial for Bush’s campaign against then Democratic candidate and Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis.
The whole advert centered around William Horton, an African American man who in 1987, raped a white woman and stabbed her white fiancé, after he was released on a weekend furlough from the Massachusetts prison where he was serving his life sentence.
Because Dukakis supported the furlough program, the commercial implied (specifically to scared white voters) that if they let this Democrat become President, homicidal Negroes would be allowed to flood their streets, and rape even more of their defenseless white women.
Even by 1980’s standards the ad was considered offensive, but Ailes not only showed no remorse, according to Rolling Stone, he once told a reporter, “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand — or without it.”
“This was a classic example of racial cuing,” Claire Jean Kim, a political-science professor at the University of California at Irvine, said in a 2012 PBS special. “The insinuation is, if you elect Governor Dukakis as president, we’re going to have black rapists running amok in the country. It’s playing to white fears about Black crime.”
Despite being morally apprehensible, Kim also admits the ad’s strategy was “incredibly effective,” and until this day “sets the bar for racial cuing.”
“Willie Horton was devastating to Mr. Dukakis,” the New York Times wrote in 1990, citing the smear campaign as a success for Bush Sr. Thirty years later, critics say Trump is hoping the same sort of propaganda will work for him, although his approach is clearly not much better.
Wednesday evening, the video was discussed at length by Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon on CNN.
“This is distracting, divisive Donald at his worst,” said Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, while appearing on Cuomo Prime Time. Perez also noted that immigration is Trump’s “dog whistle of all dog whistles” with his base.
It wasn’t just liberals who took issue with this latest “fake news” attack by the President. Conservative commentator Scott Jennings also admitted to Cuomo that he wasn’t surprised by the depravity of the ad, stating, “I don’t see anything in this video that I haven’t heard from the President consistently for the past couple of years.”
“It’s a naked appeal to fear and hate, and it is racist,” Lemon said during CNN Tonight.
Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University pointed out during Lemon’s show that while scare tactics worked for former President Bush, in the short term, it also compromised his legacy.
“The Willie Horton ad gave George Herbert Walker Bush his one big black eye in history,” said Brinkley.
But something tells us, Trump isn’t worried about that.
Check out more reactions to the commercial below.
Don’t show that Willie Horton-esque ad. Don’t respond to it, don’t retweet it, don’t quote tweet it. You can talk about it all day long without driving up the engagement numbers.
That’s part of Trump’s game. “It was the popular video of all time.” 😒 You know how he does.
— April (@ReignOfApril) November 1, 2018
Thread: Trump has done some depraved and evil things, but this ad is a new low.
He’s preying on racial fears to try and get the GOP a boost for midterms.
Many compare it to the Willie Horton Ads that George Bush ran in 88’, some of the worst in history. https://t.co/G2hQtGWQt9
— Frederick Joseph 🍂🧟♂️🎃 (@FredTJoseph) November 1, 2018
This may be the most desperate and vile ad since Willie Horton. Trump and Republicans don't want to talk about the fact that they plan to repeal the ACA, gut Social Security, Medicare, & Medicaid, and cut taxes even further for their donors, so they've resorted to fearmongering. https://t.co/xaXNThEOfb
— Robert Reich (@RBReich) October 31, 2018
This is, without question, a racist ad https://t.co/nvCaPWu4oe
— Jamie Weinstein (@Jamie_Weinstein) October 31, 2018
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 31, 2018