Days before the South Carolina primary, on which the flagging campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden has placed all its hopes, former President Barack Obama finally broke his silence about Biden’s campaign. Obama spoke up to condemn a devastating and arguably deceptive pro-Trump ad that used the former president’s voice to condemn his own vice president.
“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, an Obama spokeswoman, told The Washington Post. “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.”
The ad, designed to convince black voters in South Carolina to abandon Biden, features an audio clip from Obama’s book Dreams of My Father. PolitiFact rated a similar ad in 2017 targeting Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff as “Pants on Fire” because Obama’s words were not his own — they came from a Chicago barber he was quoting in the book. PolitiFact also dinged the anti-Ossoff ad for suggesting that voting did not make a difference when the broader story behind Obama’s quote intended to show that voting does make a difference.
“Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here’s President Obama: ‘Plantation politics. Black people in the worst jobs. The worst housing. Police brutality rampant. But when the so-called black committeemen came around at election time, we’d all line up and vote the straight Democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey.’ Enough. Joe Biden won’t represent us, defend us, or help us. Don’t believe Biden’s empty promises,” the ad says.
During the Obama quote, the ad presents three arguments against Biden. It claims that he “joined segregationists,” “wrote [a] bill that disproportionately jailed African Americans,” and “blamed African American parents for inequality.”
The Committee to Defend the President spent over $200,000 on TV advertising, as well as $50,000 on social media advertising to push this message. The ad ran on CBS before and after the South Carolina debate Tuesday and will continue to run on CBS, CNN, and MSBNC until primary day on Saturday, February 29.
Ted Harvey, chairman of the Committee, defended the ad in a statement to PJ Media. He argued that the quote was not taken out of context because the Chicago barber was warning black voters about Democrats who paid lip service to their community without truly advancing their interests.
“The Committee has a long history of taking on Joe Biden, beyond Nevada and South Carolina. President Obama made a point in his book about Democrats paying lip-service to the African-American community and we believe his point applies perfectly to Joe Biden,” Harvey said.
“It took President Trump to lower black unemployment and create jobs for the African-American community, in addition to passing criminal justice reform. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is simply giving lip-service for votes. That’s the point President Obama made in his book, and we have every right to use his own words—in his own voice—in the political forum,” the Committee president added.
Many black voters are turning on the Democratic Party and recognizing how Trump’s booming economy makes their lives better. Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and the first black billionaire in America, gave Trump an “A+” for the economy and warned that Democrats are moving “too far left.” In the new book Coming Home: How Black Americans Will Re-Elect Trump, black former Air Force officer Vernon Robinson and conservative pollster Bruce Eberle predict that black voters in swing states will give Trump the edge in his 2020 re-election battle. Connie Rankin, president of the Legacy Republican Alliance, is leading a group of black voters back into the Republican Party after what she sees as decades of broken promises from Democrats.
As for Biden, recent polls suggest he is losing support among his “firewall” black voters, who are turning from the former vice president to Sen. Bernie Sanders (S-USSR) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg (D-PILES OF CASH).
While Obama’s defense of Biden against the ad may help the former vice president, the story may also draw attention to the fact that Obama has refused to endorse his former running mate. Indeed, Obama’s spokeswoman refused to even mention Biden by name in the statement.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.