You may have heard that Donald Trump released his first television ad Monday (it got just a little bit of attention), which means you also may have heard that it contains a major screw-up. That alarming scene where immigrants stampede over the border was actually filmed at the crossing of a Spanish enclave in Morocco called Melilla, not along the divide between the United States and Mexico.
But the Trump campaign’s boldest show of audacity wasn’t the deceptive footage itself; it was insisting that the inclusion of a clip from Morocco was "1,000 percent on purpose." You know, to make a point.
Trump himself said on Fox News Channel on Monday night: "All it is is a display of what it's going to look like and what our country looks like. That was just video footage. It's just a display of what our country's going to look like. We're like a third-world country; we're a dumping ground. So you can just take it any way you want, but it's really merely a display of what a dumping ground is going to look like. And that's what our country's becoming very rapidly.”
So it was a small victory for b.s. detectives everywhere when CNN "New Day" host Chris Cuomo got the Trump campaign's special counsel, Michael Cohen, to acknowledge Tuesday morning that the footage was indeed a "mistake."
"Yeah, I'm going to have a conversation with whoever made the mistake — there's no doubt about that," Cohen said in an interview. He wasn't entirely apologetic, however, insisting that the point — the United States needs to fortify its borders — still stands. "The bottom line is it's the same thing. So it's Morocco, it's Mexico — the people are pouring into this country. ... What's the difference? The point is that they're coming through."
What's the difference between Spanish Melilla and the United States? Wow. I guess we do have to make America great again.
(Update: Cohen e-mailed the following statement to The Fix from his official Trump campaign account early Tuesday afternoon: "I wasn't aware of the question as stated, knew little about the ad or campaign strategy, but after connecting with the Trump campaign, I understand it was done that way to demonstrate that the United States has become a dumping ground for other countries who are continually taking advantage of us. I do not speak for Mr. Trump or the campaign.")
Calling the footage a "mistake" doesn't seem quite right, either — at least not if Cohen is suggesting that this was an innocent case of confusion on the part of some video editor. I'm inclined to believe Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, when he said Team Trump knew what it was doing. But the notion that the clip's foreign origin should have been obvious to viewers — that the ad meant all along to show what could happen along the southern border, not what is already happening now — is total baloney. Having people believe that footage is from the southern U.S. border is completely and utterly advantageous to a guy railing against our lack of border enforcement.
The "mistake," if we're being honest, was getting caught using misleading footage. This was a good job by Cuomo, whose pressing questions revealed an inconsistency in the Trump campaign's explanation. That's a remarkably rare accomplishment when it comes to Team Trump, which is known to double down even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.
In theory, this episode should be a problem for Trump; it shows, yet again, that he plays fast and loose with the facts and isn't a straight shooter when called to account.
Of course, he has survived far worse and probably will again, and Trump supporters are sure to see this as media nitpicking. But this is what the media's job is. From there, it's up to people to decide whether they care about this "mistake."