Republicans, led by Trump, have been working to make the caravan of migrants seeking asylum a top political story, believing it will rally their base. Over the weekend, that story was entwined with the horrific massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The alleged shooter had been ranting about the caravan. From CNN:
In one post, Bowers claimed Jews were helping transport members of the migrant caravans. He believed that those in the migrant caravans were violent because they were attempting to leave countries that had high levels of violence. And Bowers repeatedly called them “invaders.”
“I have noticed a change in people saying ‘illegals’ that now say ‘invaders’,” read one post six days before the shooting. “I like this.”
In the Tennessee Senate race, Marsha Blackburn had made attacking immigrants a central premise of her campaign. And, true to form, last week, she started running an ad featuring the caravan, which includes a litany of lies. The ad starts by falsely claiming there are 14,000 migrants marching, many of them gang members. She also includes Donald Trump’s line about them being “people from the Middle East, possibly even terrorists”. Blackburn vows to stand with Trump to build the wall and stop the caravan.
Her opponent, Democrat Phil Bredesen, has taken a measured approach, pointing out that this is not a threat to our security and the U.S. can handle it. But, like Trump, Blackburn’s approach is to divide and distract — and to scare the voters in Tennessee.
Despite Blackburn tweeting from her government account that her “heart breaks” for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre, at the time this post is published, the pinned tweet on her campaign twitter feed is still that ad.
David Nir, Editor of DailyKos Elections pointed to a similar caravan ad funded by Paul Ryan’s superPAC:
Last week, the Congressional Leadership Fund began running what may be the first attack ad featuring the migrant caravan that is slowly walking toward the United States from Central America and is still 1,000 miles away. A histrionic narrator intones, “A caravan of illegal immigrants, marching toward America.” (No, they are refugees fleeing from violence in their home countries.) “Over 7,000 strong,” he continues, “the caravan is full of gang members and criminals.” (There’s zero evidence for this.)
On Facebook, Kevin Yoder (KS-03) and Pete Sessions (TX-32) are running ads that focus on the caravan too.
Tomorrow night, Donald Trump is planning to give a speech about the caravan. There are reports he’s sending up to 5,000 troops to border. As Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, said today:
Our country is hurting. Eleven people are dead. Political and philanthropic leaders are being targeted for assassination. African American shoppers are being mowed down in parking lots. At this time of grief and terror, we need national leaders to unite us, to memorialize the victims, and to tamp down on racial polarization and hate speech. Instead, President Trump is throwing a match on the kindling. Once again.
At a moment like this, no other American president in history would do anything like making a speech designed to point fingers, stoke fear and inflame passions. If he goes through with it, we shouldn’t be surprised if unstable followers interpret it as a call to arms. It’s not too late. Leaders who care more about healing our nation than scoring political points should speak up.
Mr. President, cancel the speech.
Frank is right. And, following the events of last week, those Republicans who are trying to exploit the caravan for political gain should pull those ads.