Donald Trump Jr. had a grievance to air Saturday morning.
CNN had refused to run an election ad released by his father, President Trump, earlier this week, a video that featured Luis Bracamontes — an undocumented immigrant who was convicted in the murder of two California sheriff’s deputies — in an apparent attempt to drum up fears about immigration.
“I guess they only run fake news and won’t talk about real threats that don’t suit their agenda,” Trump Jr. tweeted, linking to a shorter, 30-second version of the ad. “Enjoy. Remember this on Tuesday. #vote #voterepublican"
CNN’s public relations department promptly fired back at the president’s eldest child, repeating a statement that the network’s reporters had made last week: The ad was racist.
“CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist,” CNN PR tweeted. “When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined. Those are the facts.”
The full ad, released and tweeted out by the president on Halloween, showed a smiling and unremorseful Bracamontes as he bragged in the courtroom: “I killed [expletive] cops. They’re [expletive] dead. I don’t [expletive] regret that [expletive]. . . . I will break out soon and I will kill more.” (In the advertisement, the actual expletives are heard.)
There is no subtlety to the message the ad is trying to telegraph: Migrants are killers and criminals, and Democrats comprise the party that enable them.
Indeed, the ad “dispenses with whatever restraint Trump may have exercised with his divisive immigration rhetoric,” as The Washington Post’s media critic Erik Wemple described in a recent column:
In his tweet promoting the video ad, Trump writes, “It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country. Vote Republican now!” As the ad cycles through Bracamontes’s chilling threats in the courtroom, a banner reads, “DEMOCRATS LET HIM INTO OUR COUNTRY.”
The focus then switches to footage of a migrant caravan overwhelming fences at a checkpoint, and then to a Fox News clip in which a migrant tells a translator that he plans on seeking a pardon for the “felony he committed … attempted murder.” Again, the multitudes splash across the screen, with this banner, “WHO ELSE WOULD DEMOCRATS LET IN?”
... The video stigmatizes a large group of people of color as criminals — killers bent on coming in and killing the law-abiding residents of the United States. It’s another in the long list of shocking-but-not-surprising developments in the Trump presidency. This is Trump’s remarks about Mexico’s “rapists” in video format.
As Wemple noted, after the ad was released, a slew of media outlets dispensed with the usual equivocations — “racially charged,” “racially tinged” and the like — and described the commercial as outright “racist” (CNN), “divisive” (NBC News) and “fearmongering” (HuffPost).
Moreover, the lines about Democrats letting Bracamontes stay in the country didn’t hold up to a fact check, as The Post’s Eli Rosenberg reported. Bracamontes was deported in 1997 and 2001, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, according to local newspapers at the time. Bracamontes also apparently was arrested, then released, in Phoenix in 1998.
If Trump Jr. was miffed by CNN’s retort, though, he didn’t show it. The president’s son, who once claimed to be so busy running the family business that he had nearly “zero contact” with his father, has been aggressively campaigning for several Republican candidates in recent weeks.
Throughout Saturday, Trump Jr. retweeted others critical of CNN, including attacks on CNN anchor Don Lemon, who had recently said that “the biggest terror threat in this country is white men.” Trump Jr. also shared a clip of a CNN interviewer talking to who she thought was a random person at a rally for Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. The person turned out to be Gillum’s mother.
“No wonder you’re the fakest name in news. #fakenews,” Trump Jr. tweeted at CNN.
Like his son, President Trump has regularly attacked CNN on Twitter and in his rally speeches. The president once tweeted a doctored video clip that showed him slamming a man representing “CNN” to the ground. Another time he retweeted an image depicting “CNN” squashed beneath his shoe.
On Saturday, CNN representatives included an apple emoji in its reply to Trump Jr., a reference to the “Facts First” campaign the station launched last year to try to fight claims by Trump — and his supporters — that the network is “fake news.” Though CNN’s “Facts First” video never called out Trump by name, it hinted at tactics used by the president.
“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana,” the ad said. “They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana.
“But it’s not. This is an apple.”