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This is the 30-year-old Willie Horton commercial that everyone is talking about today


PAC for national security

A picture of convicted murderer Willie Horton from a controversial election campaign from 1988.


There are attack indicators and then there are Willie Horton-type attack indicators.

It is a name for political advertisements that blatantly fuel racial fears and stereotypes. They are a tried and tested method of portraying a political opponent as being meek towards crime. And they work a lot of the time.

President Trump is hoping for similar results for a web video he produced for his campaign and tweeted on Wednesday. Many are calling it the most racist national political ad in 30 years – since Willie Horton.

The campaign “Willie Horton” was produced by supporters of George HW Bush for his 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis.

Horton, an African American, was a convicted murderer who raped a white woman and stabbed her partner while on leave from prison under a Massachusetts program when Dukakis, the Democratic candidate, was governor.

Television advertising is now considered one of the most racially divisive in modern political history for playing white fear and African American stereotypes. In it, an off-screen narrator tells the story of Horton’s crimes, while pictures of Bush and Dukakis and a menacing mug shot of Horton flash across the screen. The narrator notes that Bush supports the death penalty for murderers.

“Dukakis is not only against the death penalty, he has allowed first-degree killers to get weekend tickets out of prison,” says the narrator.

The ad ends with this slogan: “Weekend jail happens, Dukakis on crime.”

Bush’s campaign strategist Lee Atwater knew that talking about Horton could be devastating for the Democratic candidate.

“Lee knew it was powerful. Lee knew it fitted into a liberal stereotype that would make Dukakis more prominent, ”Bush’s deputy campaign manager Ed Rogers said in the CNN documentary“ Race for The White House: George HW Bush versus Michael Dukakis ”.

“Lee also knew he could be radioactive with Bush. That Bush wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t handled properly. Bush would declare it taboo. ”

After the independent group’s ad aired, Bush’s campaign later produced a related spot called “Revolving Door,” which featured convicts going to and out of jail while narrating Dukakis’ liberal positions on issues such as the mandatory conviction of drug dealers explained without showing or mentioning Horton’s name.

Dukakis campaign manager Susan Estrich later said the ad with Horton had achieved the GOP’s goal of “making Willie Horton Dukakis’ runner-up”.

The two ads tarred Dukakis with a soft-on-crime label that he couldn’t shake off. Bush took a landslide victory in November.

The new advertisement from the Trump campaign shows Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican who had previously been deported but returned to the United States and was convicted in February of the murder of two California MPs.

“I’m going to kill even more police officers soon,” a grinning Bracamontes said in court, while captions across the screen said “The Democrats let him into our country. The Democrats let him stay. ”


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