Obama to TV stations: Take down misleading Biden attack ad

By Marc Caputo

Former President Barack Obama is sending a cease-and-desist letter to South Carolina TV stations demanding they not air a Republican ad that misuses his words to attack his former vice president, Joe Biden.

The Committee to Defend the President super PAC’s ad, which began airing Tuesday as part of a $250,000 media buy, is the latest in a string of Republican efforts designed to torpedo Biden in an effort to keep him from facing President Donald Trump.

The super PAC aired a similar amount of ads attacking Biden in Nevada that targeted Hispanics and concerned the issue of immigration. This ad aims at the majority black electorate in South Carolina, a must-win state for Biden, by misleadingly using Obama’s words from his 1995 book “Dreams from My Father” to suggest that the former president believes his vice president supports “plantation politics” that hurt African Americans.

“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” Katie Hill, Obama’s communications director, said in a written statement. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”

Hill said the law firm of Perkins Coie is drafting a letter demanding stations pull the ad.

For the Biden campaign, the ad is a reminder that Trump’s campaign and his allies don’t want to face him.

Trump‘s impeachment was rooted in the president’s attempt to pressure Ukraine’s government into investigating Biden and his son.

Some South Carolina Republicans have launched a so-called “Operation Chaos” to persuade conservatives to take advantage of the state’s open primary and vote for Biden’s leading opponent, Bernie Sanders, on Saturday. The National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee has predicted the GOP will win back the House if Sanders is the Democrats’ nominee.

“When the president attacks Joe Biden, it’s personal. But when we attack Bernie, it’s strategic. And we’re not doing a lot of that now,” said a Trump campaign adviser. “We think we can beat all of them, but Bernie is easier to beat because he’s so far left that it’s the type of choice we want.”

Asked why the Trump campaign and its allies would attack Biden when he’s already been wounded by several weak early state performances, the adviser said, “wounded ain’t dead.”

Ted Harvey, chairman of the Committee to Defend the President, in a statement, “The Committee has a long history of taking on Joe Biden, beyond Nevada and South Carolina. President Obama made a point in his book about Democrats paying lip-service to the African-American community and we believe his point applies perfectly to Joe Biden.

“It took President Trump to lower black unemployment and create jobs for the African-American community, in addition to passing criminal justice reform. Joe Biden, on the other hand, is simply giving lip-service for votes. That’s the point President Obama made in his book, and we have every right to use his own words — in his own voice — in the political forum,” he said.

Obama’s likeness has been used in campaign ads by Biden, billionaire Mike Bloomberg and other Democratic presidential candidates. He did not ask any to pull their ads.

“President Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed vice president,” said Hill, Obama’s spokeswoman. “He has said he has no plans to endorse in the primary because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee.”

Zach Montellaro contributed to this report.