President Donald Trump tweeted a pro-GOP ad early Wednesday afternoon that’s being compared to George H.W. Bush’s racist “Willie Horton” ad from the 1988 election.
“It is outrageous what the Democrats are doing to our Country. Vote Republican now!” Trump tweeted alongside the video.
Beginning with the legend “illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!” the ad compares the caravan of Central American asylum seekers traveling to the U.S. that have made headlines in recent days to Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant and drug dealer who was convicted of murder in February after being deported twice over the past 21 years. It cuts footage of Bracamontes with news clips of the caravan. Bracamontes, who killed two police officers in Sacramento, Calif. and was sentenced to death, states that he wishes he had killed more.
“Democrats let him in,” the ad reads. “Democrats let him stay.”
The ad also features a Fox News interview with one of the migrants, who says he wants to get a pardon for attempted murder.
It concludes with the phrase “President Donald J. Trump and Republicans are making America safe again!”
After the 1988 election, Bush was criticized two ads that were intended to target Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis for his history of advocating inmate furlough programs. The first ad, “Weekend Passes,” was produced by a political action committee and focused on the exceptional case of Horton, an African-American prisoner who was released for a weekend furlough and went on to commit assault, armed robbery, and rape. It included a mug shot of Horton at the end of the ad.
Shortly after “Weekend Passes” stopped airing, the Bush campaign released its own ad, “Revolving Door,” which did not mention Horton directly but instead featuring a series of threatening-looking men walking in and out of prison. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson called that ad racist, and claimed the campaign used it to target white voters by playing to their stereotyped fear of black men.
UC Berkeley professor of public policy and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich called the Bracamontes ad “the most desperate and vile since Willie Horton.”
“They’ve resorted to fearmongering,” Reich wrote of the Republicans.
Trump recently announced plans to send 10,000 to 15,000 active duty troops to the border to deal with the caravan, which is not expected to reach the border for weeks or even months. He has made numerous claims about the migrants, none of which are supported by any evidence, including that the caravan is much larger than media reports, that it is comprised mostly of young men, that “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the group, and that it’s possible the caravan is funded by George Soros.