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Donald Trump is pushing more falsehoods about Mexicans? What a shocker.
In a new television ad — his campaign’s first — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shows footage of dozens of people swarming over a border fence. But the footage isn’t as it seems.
About halfway through the ad, a narrator says of Trump, “He’ll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for.” Video footage shows dozens of people streaming across the border, as if they were ants fleeing an anthill.
The clear suggestion is that the footage is of the “southern border” between the United States and Mexico. But it’s not — it’s 5,000 miles away, in a small Spanish enclave on the mainland of Morocco.
PolitiFact was able to trace the footage back to the Italian television network RepubblicaTV. On May 3, 2014, the network posted footage of Moroccans crossing the border into Melilla, one of two enclaves on the Moroccan coast that are held by Spain. Migrants who cross the border there are essentially entering territory held by a European Union nation, even though they are still on the African continent. (It can also be seen posted by a YouTube user here.)
The RepubblicaTV video is time-stamped May 1, 2014. According to the description posted by the network (and using Google Translate) the video was released by the Interior Ministry in Madrid, showing an “onslaught of hundreds of migrants to the wall that separates the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco. About 800 tried to cross the border on May 1st. Those who failed to escape the control of the Civil Guard were hanging on the barriers for six hours before being rejected.”
The 2014 RepubblicaTV video resurfaced a year later, in a July 2015 YouTube posttitled, “1,000s of immigrants try to cross the border at once.” It makes no reference to the location.
By the time the footage made it into Trump’s ad, both RepubblicaTV’s logo and the 2014 time stamp were no longer visible.
“We rate the claim Pants on Fire,” concluded Politifact.
Pressed for comment by NBC News, Trump’s campaign manager gave the classiest of responses: “No shit it’s not the Mexican border but that’s what our country is going to look like if we don’t do anything.”
Before Politifact’s findings, the ad had already received comparisons to the racist, fearmongering ads of former California Governor Pete Wilson, “which served up similarly grainy footage of similar dark hordes invading the country”:
As Brian Beutler noted, this depiction of “illegal immigrants as invaders” offers a striking parallel to today’s Trumpian rhetoric. That parallel should make it hard to avoid reckoning with the possibility that Trump’s appeal to GOP voters just might be partly rooted in the raw appeal of his xenophobia and demagoguery about immigrants, and not just in anxieties that are legitimately traceable to the impact of immigration policy on GOP voters’ economic prospects, as some right-leaning commentators have suggested. Now Trump’s ad has helpfully brought this comparison to full circle.
Trump’s immigration faux pas rightfully received a resounding tsunami of mockery on the Internets:
— Frank Sharry (@FrankSharry) January 4, 2016
B-roll from the Trump ad pic.twitter.com/pWG7sEge6h
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) January 4, 2016
Of course that’s not actual footage of Trump supporters goose-stepping into Austin. It’s just what our country is going to look like. — LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) January 4, 2016
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) January 4, 2016
— Josh Breisblatt (@jbreisblatt) January 4, 2016
The Trump campaign is now singing a new tune, today admitting that maybe showing a country from a completely different continent in place of the US/Mexico border was indeed a bit of a boo-boo:
Michael Cohen, special counsel to Trump and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said on CNN Tuesday there’s “no doubt” someone made a mistake, but the message behind the Republican’s first TV ad still stands.
“I think the point is well taken that we have 2,000 miles of open border at the southern border and, well, whoever the person is I’m sure I’ll be sending them a letter very soon on behalf of Mr. Trump, but the bottom line is it’s the same thing,” Cohen told CNN’s Chris Cuomo. “The point is that they’re coming through.”
He went on: “Yeah, I’m going to have a conversation with whoever made the mistake – there’s no doubt about that – but the truth is people are pouring through our borders which are open.”
Better late than never, we guess.