The group, which placed a similar amount of anti-Biden advertising in Nevada earlier this month, reported to the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday spending more than $250,000 in South Carolina to oppose Biden.
“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, Obama’s communications director, said in a statement. “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.”
Hill said Obama has “several friends” in the Democratic presidential primary, “including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President.” She also said Obama has “no plans to endorse in the primary.”
Late Wednesday, Patchen M. Haggerty, an attorney representing Obama, wrote the pro-Trump group’s executive director, Chad Banghart, to say the ad’s unauthorized use of Obama’s “name, image, likeness, voice and book passage is clearly intended to mislead the target audience of the ad into believing that the passage from the audiobook is a statement that was made by President Obama during his presidency.”
The letter demanded that the group “immediately remove” the ad from public view.
An attempt to sway black voters in the state, the ad begins with a narrator saying “Joe Biden promised to help our community. It was a lie. Here’s President Obama.”
The ad then runs audio of Obama reading an unrelated passage from his book, “Dreams from My Father,” about a conversation he had with a barber in Chicago when he was a community organizer.
The Obama passage, which describes the mistreatment of black voters by politicians, refers to complaints about “plantation politics” and the history in Chicago of Democratic politicians expecting black votes despite poor housing, poor job opportunities and police brutality.
The ad repurposes a similar attack the Committee to Defend the President ran last year in several states with many black politicians, including Georgia, Michigan and Louisiana, according to PolitiFact. Similar tactics, aimed at decreasing black turnout for Democrats, were used in a radio ad by another pro-Trump super PAC, Great America Alliance, in the 2017 special House election in Georgia.
“Donald Trump and his allies are absolutely terrified that Joe Biden will defeat him in November. Trump even got himself impeached by trying to force another country to lie about the vice president,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign. “This latest intervention in the Democratic primary is one of the most desperate yet, a despicable torrent of misinformation by the president’s lackeys.”
Separately, Republican activists in South Carolina have boasted about a plan called Operation Chaos to encourage Trump backers to vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Saturday’s primary. The South Carolina GOP has canceled the state’s Republican primary this year.
The Committee to Defend the President, which grew out of a group called Stop Hillary PAC, traditionally raises its money in increments of $5,000 or less, according to FEC records. The group has reported spending $655,285 on television advertising, $279,800 on voter phone contact, and $144,657 on online voter contact since the beginning of this year.
The group spent about $250,000 on a Spanish-language ad before the Nevada caucuses attacking Obama and Biden on immigration reform.
“They separated families and put children in cages,” the narrator says in that spot, appropriating a Democratic critique of Trump’s immigration actions.
Ted Harvey, chairman of the Committee to Defend the President, defended the group’s advertising in a statement on Wednesday.
“It took President Trump to lower black unemployment and create jobs for the African-American community, in addition to passing criminal justice reform,” Harvey said in the statement. “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.”