News & Politics

Leftist Groups Plan Ad Blitz Politicizing Coronavirus Even as Dems Praise Trump's Leadership

President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, in the Brady press briefing room at the White House, Monday, March 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

In the past week, even Democrats and liberal media figures have praised President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, but left-wing activist groups plan an ad blitz politicizing the crisis. Trump has largely avoided politics in his coronavirus briefings, but he did hit likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden once.

A dark-money network of liberal groups will spend millions tarring the president’s response to the virus, RealClearPolitics’ Susan Crabtree reported. Pacronym, a liberal PAC, announced it would spend $5 million through July slamming Trump’s handling of the crisis through ads in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

“From initially downplaying the seriousness of the crisis to protect his own image, to stating last week that he bears no responsibility for the lack of testing and rise in cases across the country, President Trump’s failure to lead has worsened the crisis that will result in the loss of American lives,” Tara McGowan, the founder of Pacronym, said in a statement. “This will be a defining issue of this presidency and this campaign, and it is imperative that Americans be reached with the facts before the most consequential election of our lives.”

Pacronym is affiliated with Acronym, the group behind the Iowa caucuses meltdown. Former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe sits on the group’s board.

Acronym is financed by the New Venture Fund, which is controlled by a larger umbrella organization of liberal nonprofits, Arabella Advisors. Eric Kessler, who worked in the Clinton administration and served as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, founded all of these groups.  Last year, the Capital Research Center reported that Arabella raked in $582 million in 2017 while benefiting from tax laws allowing it to keep many of its donors undisclosed, making it a “dark money” network.

American Bridge, founded by Hillary Clinton ally David Brock, is already running ads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin slamming Trump over the coronavirus. The group announced it would release yet another ad hitting the president’s “incompetence” and showing clips of him “downplaying the crisis.”

American Bridge received funding from New Venture Fund in 2018, as did Sixteen Thirty Fund, another Arabella group. During the 2018 midterms, Sixteen Thirty spent $141 million on more than 100 left-wing causes. Sixteen Thirty is targeting vulnerable Republican senators in coronavirus attack ads through its branch Protect Our Care.

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh slammed the leftist onslaught against Trump on this issue.

“President Trump is leading an unprecedented effort to protect this nation from a serious health crisis, while their leading candidate has an embarrassing record on this very issue,” he told RealClearPolitics.

The Trump campaign suspended ad campaigns attacking Biden, while campaign spokesman have attacked the former vice president over his public comments about the swine flu. “The Obama White House had to apologize for Joe Biden’s remarks that set off a public panic,” Murtaugh said. “And when Biden made a speech about the coronavirus outbreak earlier this month, most of the actions he recommended had already been undertaken by President Trump.” Perhaps worse, Biden chose a coronavirus advisor who told the elderly to avoid flue shots.

Many conservatives predicted that the liberal ad blitz would backfire as Americans turn to Trump in the midst of this crisis.

Club for Growth, which has aired ads supporting Trump, has put anti-Biden ads on hold. “The response to the coronavirus has pushed the whole election off the front page,” the group’s president, David McIntosh, told Politico. “And it will restart and readjust once the immediate crisis is over.”

America First Action, a pro-Trump super PAC, announced plans to hit Biden in an ad blitz on February 26, but the ads never appeared.

Meanwhile, experts have acknowledged that Trump’s decisive actions in combatting the crisis have saved lives. Notably, the president partnered with the private sector just as Democrats are calling for a government takeover of health care. Most Americans approve of his approach to the coronavirus.

Even liberal critics of Trump have praised the president’s response to the crisis. CNN’s Dana Bash praised him as “the kind of leader that people need.” Govs. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) and Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) praised Trump. Even Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a notorious member of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Squad,” celebrated Trump’s “unprecedented leadership.”

“We should never let good politics get in the way of good policy,” Omar added. “This is a great start and [I] hope others will be part of a united front to push for good policies that will help us work through the economic anxiety the country is feeling right now.”

Some activist groups have pushed their attacks on Trump regardless of the crisis. The Southern Poverty Law Center released its fear-mongering “hate map” this week, despite the fact that Americans are already on edge due to the coronavirus. The report attacked Trump no fewer than 66 times.

Politics does not stop in the middle of the coronavirus crisis, but liberal activist groups appear to be working overtime to take advantage of the situation. Far from helping Trump solve the crisis, many are politicizing it to attack him, with Biden going so far as sharing coronavirus misinformation to attack his rival.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.