Donald Trump’s advertising campaign is ending as it started, with footage of migrants in Europe, lifted from the internet and passed off as video of immigrants streaming across the border from Mexico into the United States.
Near the start of the new ad, as the candidate complains of “massive illegal immigration,” thousands of people are shown walking along a highway.
That video, however, was not shot along the southern border of the U.S. — where Trump has promised to build a great wall — but in Hungary, at the height of the migrant crisis last year, as Syrian refugees, desperate for safe passage to Germany, marched out of Budapest.
The video was shot by Nabih Bulos, a foreign correspondent working for the New York Times last year. He confirmed to The Intercept that that the footage was not licensed from him, and he would not have approved its use if asked. “When this footage was taken, thousands of refugees were on an odyssey through the Balkan corridor and Europe to escape the cataclysm ripping their country apart,” he wrote. “As a son of two Palestinian refugees who benefited from Jordan’s largesse, a naturalized American welcomed to the country even after 9/11, as well as a working conflict journalist, the last thing I would want this footage to be used for is to embody Trump’s xenophobic, repugnant message.”
If the footage was used in error, it would be an odd slip, since the Trump campaign was ridiculed for doing the exact same thing in their first ad, at the start of the year. In that commercial, released in January, as a narrator promised that Trump would “stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for,” images flashed on the screen of migrants surging across a border fence. That video, however, was recorded in a Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, Melilla, in 2014.
It seems possible, however, that the ad is intentionally misleading, and hopes to conflate the situation in the U.S. with the huge number of migrants seeking refuge in Europe from wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the closing stages of the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum in June, fear of immigrants was stoked by the nationalist politician Nigel Farage, a Trump ally, using billboards showing those same migrants and refugees entering Eastern Europe.
Breitbart, the website of Trump’s campaign chairman, Steve Bannon, obsessively covers the migrant crisis in Europe, using it to boost extreme nationalist parties across the continent whose rhetoric echoes that of Islamophobic and white supremacist groups in the U.S.
As Josh Marshall argues, perhaps the most disturbing part of the new ad, “Donald Trump’s Argument For America,” is its use of anti-Semitic tropes. As Trump complains about “those who control the levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests” who “put money into the pockets of handful of large corporations,” the villains displayed on screen are all prominent Jews: George Soros, the hedge-fund billionaire who funds progressive causes, Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve chairwoman, and Lloyd Blankfein, the head of Goldman Sachs.