Buttigieg campaign criticized for using stock photo of Kenyan woman to promote plan to address US racism

William Cummings, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign responded Monday to criticism over its use of a stock image of a Kenyan woman on a campaign webpage promoting the South Bend, Indiana, mayor's plan to address racial inequality. 

Buttigieg spokesman Sean Savett said in a tweet that the photograph was taken down "months ago as part of a regular update." 

"We apologize for its use and for the confusion it created," Savett said, noting that the use of stock photos is "standard practice across many campaigns." He said that the image was selected by a contractor and that the website it was taken from did not make clear that the photo was taken in Kenya.

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In July, Buttigieg unveiled "The Douglass Plan" – named in honor of abolitionist hero Frederick Douglass – which his website describes as "a comprehensive and intentional dismantling of racist structures and systems." To achieve that goal, it promises changes to the criminal justice and health care systems, as well as an expansion of investment and credit in black communities. 

The Intercept reported Friday that three South Carolina politicians, who were included in a list of more than 400 South Carolinians supporting the plan and promoted by the campaign, said they had been mischaracterized as endorsing Buttigieg. Johnnie Cordero, chair of the state party’s Black Caucus, said he never backed the plan. which he called "entirely presumptuous." 

Ryan Grim, The Intercept's D.C. bureau chief who wrote the article, tweeted Friday, "On top of everything else, the Buttigieg campaign used a stock photo from Kenya to promote its Frederick Douglass Plan for Black America."