A commercial for Joe Biden’s presidential run, aired during Sunday’s NFL games and noted for its licensing of the Beastie Boys’ music, has been withdrawn after the Michigan nightclub owner featured in the ad became a target for fire from conservatives.
The Biden campaign says it took the ad down in response to “doxxing” and ongoing threats against the owner of the Blind Pig nightspot in Ann Arbor, contending the takedown was necessary to keep the harassment from escalating. The Donald Trump campaign, meanwhile, insists that it was removed out of embarrassment at having misrepresented a club owned by an investor as an imminently endangered ma-and-pa establishment.
“The price for having a voice in our political process cannot be endless harassment,” Biden spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement given to Variety. “And yet, that is what (Blind Pig co-owner) Joe Malcoun and his family currently face as he was doxxed, harassed and threatened after the Trump campaign has sought to smear a community leader who dared to speak out against Trump’s failed response to the COVID crisis. It is shameful.”
The response of the Trump campaign and its allies centers around Malcoun’s status as a successful investor, an occupation he took on after his wife inherited a large sum of money from a relative. The Blind Pig is one of their (presumably less lucrative) investments.
In an email sent to Variety Wednesday, Trump deputy campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso wrote: “Saw that you wrote a piece on Biden’s ‘Blind Pig’ ad that has since been taken down because of rightful backlash from everyday Americans offended that the Biden team created this ad. In their desperation to pin something else on the President, they fabricated a story in a last-ditch effort to lie to voters because nothing else has worked — and they got caught. Looking forward to your updated stories or standalone articles like this one talking about Team Biden taking it down,” the Trump spox added, linking to a story in the conservative Daily Caller. (Farnaso apparently has sent the same or a similar email to other journalists who covered the Biden ad last weekend.)
The commercial initially drew media attention not because of the club featured in the ad, but because the surviving Beastie Boys believed in the causes it espoused — Biden’s candidacy, and the survival of small live music venues — that they licensed their song “Sabotage” for the spot. It marked the first time they have licensed a song for an advertisement, outside of trailers.
The spot focused on the plight of independent venues that have had to remain dark throughout the pandemic, with Malcoun saying that it is Donald Trump’s failed coronavirus response that has led to the elongation of quarantine and most nightspots having to stay closed, threatening these businesses’ survival.
Many Trump supporters were immediately enraged by the ad, saying that it is the policies of Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer that have forced clubs to remain closed when they should have remained open all along. Conservative publications like the Daily Caller began finding previous stories about Malcoun — who only recently bought the more than 50-year-old club — that describe him as a well known local entrepreneur with several businesses in the community, suggesting that he is moneyed enough to keep the nightspot from going under.
The club and its owner are said to have received constant threats since the ad’s airing, and the campaign’s goal in removing the spot from YouTube was to calm the situation. But the Trump campaign and its supporters have used its removal as a sign that the Biden campaign was caught in a “gotcha” with the ad.
Lost in the focus on the club featured in the ad is that hundreds if not thousands of bars and music spots that are unable to reopen and are receiving no government assistance are in danger of going under, for good. That cause has been the focus of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which is behind the $10 billion “Save Our Stages” legislation currently on hold in Congress that would help keep these venues afloat until doors can reopen. However, the act, which is part of the larger Heroes Act, has been the object of an ongoing battle between Congress and the president, and it seems unlikely to pass before next month’s election.
Some 90% of America’s independent music venues expect to shut down within the next few months if they do not receive federal aid, according to a NIVA poll conducted in June. Head here for ways to support “Save Our Stages” and independent venues across the country.
A rep for NIVA tells Variety the organization was unaware of the Biden commercial until it aired, but noted that it would not have been involved in any case, as NIVA is nonpartisan and influential Republican congresspeople as well as Democrats are co-sponsoring the “Save Our Stages” act.
Variety‘s efforts to reach the Blind Pig or Malcoun for comment were unsuccessful at the time of this article’s publication.