A Republican congressional candidate in Arkansas has condemned a radio ad from a Super PAC aimed at black voters that claims “white Democrats will be lynching black folk again.”
The radio ad, created by an independent group supporting two-term incumbent Rep. French Hill in his electoral bid against Democrat Clarke Tucker, is set up as a conversation between two black women, and begins as they discuss the sexual assault and misconduct accusations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The women say the treatment he faced suggests that a presumption of innocence has become a presumption of guilt and that this will negatively affect black men.
“If the Democrats can do that to a white justice of the Supreme Court with no evidence, no corroboration, and all of her witnesses including her best friend say it didn’t happen? What will happen to our husbands, our fathers, or our sons when a white girl lies on them?” one of the women says.
”Girl, white Democrats will be lynching black folk again,” the other woman responds.
Shortly before the ad concludes, the second woman says: “We can’t afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences, and lynchings when a white girl screams rape.”
The ad, which was shared on Twitter on Thursday, was swiftly denounced by both Hill and Tucker, who are competing in Arkansas’s Second Congressional District.
Rep. Hill & his allies will have to live with the kind of campaign they’re running. This radio ad is disgraceful & has no place in our society. We won’t let these shameful tactics distract us from our fight to stand up for the people in #AR02 on the critical issues in our lives. https://t.co/KErJAOdsel
— Clarke Tucker (@clarketucker) October 18, 2018
“Some may have heard an appalling ad on the radio,” Hill tweeted on Thursday. “I condemn this outrageous ad in the strongest terms. I do not support that message, and there is no place in Arkansas for this nonsense.” Hill also called for his opponent to “delete his tweet spreading this message unbecoming of political discourse.”
The controversial ad comes as the Arkansas race hinges on black turnout
The ad was created by a group called Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, which was founded earlier this year, according to the Washington Post. In the ad’s fallout, the state Republican Party has filed an ethics complaint against the Super PAC, which ThinkProgress reports may be funded by wealthy white donors, including Charles B. Johnson, the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants.
Vernon Robinson, the group’s co-founder, told Vice News that the PAC spent less than $50,000 on the Arkansas ad, which is primarily targeted at Little Rock, and a similar version aimed at voters in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. The ads are aimed at voters over age 35 and are not playing on hip-hop stations because Robinson believes “hip-hop voters don’t vote.”
Robinson criticized Republican politicians, saying that they overlook black voters. The lynching ad was created because his group believes anger over false rape accusations could convince black voters — a crucial bloc in the upcoming midterm elections — to not back Democrats in the contest. Vice reports that Robinson’s organization also ran an ad criticizing Democrats for supporting Planned Parenthood, saying that the group was created to “exterminate black folks.”
“All it is is hard-hitting. I believe the Me Too movement deserves every hit they take,” Robinson told Vice News. “Shifting the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt is very dangerous for black men.” Robinson also told the outlet that he plans to run more ads before the election.
The controversy over the Arkansas ad comes as Democrats in the district are running a competitive campaign, the Associated Press reports. The contest is likely to hinge on turnout of black voters, who comprise roughly one-fifth of the district, which includes the Little Rock area.
Efforts to tie Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings to the mistreatment of black men are not new. During the hearings earlier this month, conservatives, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), argued that Kavanaugh’s defenders occupied a role similar to To Kill a Mockingbird’s Atticus Finch, who defended a black man from a woman’s false accusation. But that comparison, which equates Kavanaugh to Tom Robinson, the black man who stood accused in the novel, fails to account for the significant differences between the men or the historical nuances of the allegations against them.
As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie wrote this month:
During the Jim Crow era, allegations of rape and sexual assault against black men weren’t good-faith efforts to uncover abuse against women. They were pretexts for mob violence and brutal, public executions, meant to punish black Americans for stepping outside the boundaries set by white society.
Bouie gets at an issue that the Arkansas ad — and arguments attempting to link Kavanaugh to the struggles of black men — miss. It is true that, historically, black men have faced false accusations that played a role in lynchings, a point that is especially salient in Arkansas, where nearly 500 African Americans were lynched between 1877 and 1950, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.
But to compare these situations reflects a deep misunderstanding of history and black voters. After all, the message that Republicans care about false accusations against black Americans is hard to square with President Donald Trump’s argument that the Central Park Five are guilty, or conservative attacks on kneeling NFL players protesting racial injustice, or criticism of those protesting police violence.
The Arkansas ad claims that Republican support of Kavanaugh equates to support of men of color. But the party itself has done very little to suggest that this is actually the case.