So it’s interesting that a pro-Trump super PAC is currently running a TV ad in South Carolina targeting Biden.
The ad hitting Biden from the Committee to Defend the President is a remarkable piece of work: It weaponizes audio of former president Barack Obama against Biden, in what is clearly an effort to turn African American voters against him.
Obama himself is now denouncing the ad. Katie Hill, a spokesperson for Obama, told us his office is calling on TV stations to stop airing the spot, denouncing it as an effort to “sow division and confusion” and “suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina.”
The ad is pure disinformation of the ugliest sort.
“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.
Hill, the spokesperson for Obama, told us that “Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President,” while stressing Obama isn’t endorsing anyone. Hill added:
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. 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.
This comes after the same pro-Trump super PAC aired another horribly misleading ad in the run-up to the Nevada caucuses, where Sanders won handily and Biden placed second.
That ad features a Spanish-speaking narrator claiming Obama and Biden walked away from immigration reform and separated families. In reality, during the Obama years, comprehensive immigration reform passed the Senate by a wide bipartisan margin, and died only because the GOP-controlled House refused to act on it.
On top of that, while Obama was criticized for his handling of influxes of migrant children, he did not separate families in the way that Trump has.
This ad, obviously, appears designed to drive Latino support away from Biden.
So this pro-Trump super PAC has now run two ads slamming Biden, in states where Democratic nominating contests were underway. And both were saturated with disinformation.
In one sense, this suggests that some in the pro-Trump orbit want to try to eliminate Biden from contention in the primaries. But beyond that, the way this particular super PAC is going about this tells us a lot about the disinformation we’re going to be seeing from Trump and his propagandists against the Democratic nominee, whoever it is.
Those tactics will be about dampening minority turnout, even if the nominee is Sanders. You can bank on it.
We’ve already seen this playbook before. As Bloomberg’s Joshua Green and Sasha Issenberg detailed, during the 2016 campaign, the Trump campaign employed cynical messaging tactics explicitly designed to depress turnout among specific Democratic voter groups, such as idealistic white liberals, younger women and African Americans.
It’s already starting again. And it’s going to be a lot uglier this time — and far better funded.