This week a commercial titled “Champion” made the rounds on cable news networks, proclaiming that President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, the embattled Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, is “a civil rights champion” with “a lifetime of fighting for justice.”
The ad shows Sessions standing next to actual civil rights leaders such as President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and Rep. John Lewis, and details a list of civil rights accomplishments that Sessions falsely claims before urging Americans to tell their senators to confirm this champion of “real reform.”
If America had any remaining doubts about the Trump-led GOP’s commitment to “alternative facts,” this ad—along with nearly everything else he has done in his first week in office—should put them to rest.
The brazen and demonstrably false ad will outrage those familiar with Sessions’s deplorable record, but such attacks on reality will only grow more powerful and frequent under this administration.
The “Champion” ad states that Sessions “worked to desegregate Alabama schools and fight for equality.” Yet Sessions himself has acknowledged that he played no significant role in fighting to end school segregation in Alabama. In fact, he’s said his role was merely to “support” the Justice Department’s civil rights division—the very one he’s expected to gut as attorney general.
Following Brown v. Board of Education, Alabama amended its state constitution to legally deprive students of the right to a public education in order to circumvent federal desegregation requirements and defund predominantly black schools. Sessions sin wasn’t just one of omission—failing to end segregation in Alabama—but an engaged one, as he perpetuated a system that supported it.
In addition to allegedly referring to a black co-worker as “boy,” joking about his tolerance for the Ku Klux Klan, and labelling the NAACP as “un-American,” Sessions’s civil rights work has focused on presenting spurious voter fraud cases against African Americans in Alabama. And in this presidential election, he supported Alabama’s voter ID laws despite the Department of Transportation finding that the state’s actions caused “a disparate and adverse impact [on African Americans] on the basis of race.”
The conservative nonprofit that created this ad, the 45Committee, knew the viewers it’s targeting will not question the ad’s bogus claims, and they definitely will not become experts on Alabama’s racially oppressive constitution. Their propaganda is intended to turn reality itself into an attack on supposed conservative values by supposed liberal elites.
It’s a tactic the 45Committee and its partnered super PAC, Future45, used to devastating effect in last year’s election. The 45Committee does not release information about its donors, but its sister organization—led by billionaire Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade—does, and Las Vegas casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson was its largest donor.
During the 2016 presidential election and up to Jan. 25, 2017, the 45Committee and Future45 combined spent over $45 million in support of Donald Trump, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Future45 raised nearly $25 million, and spent almost all of it on ads attacking Hillary Clinton.
After FBI Director James Comey’s letter announcing the re-opening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, Future45 released the ad “Bad News,” which has nearly 2 million views on YouTube, comparing her to Richard Nixon. It opens with Nixon saying, “People have got to know whether or not their president is a crook,” and ends with an image of Clinton and Nixon and the text, “How can we elect someone who is under FBI investigation?”
Likewise, 45Committee spent over $21 million: $18 million on ads attacking Clinton and $3 million on ones supporting Trump.
Following Trump’s victory, the 45Committee has shifted its focus from Clinton attacks to pro-Trump propaganda and the Sessions ad surely will be the first of many intended on duping Americans.
Plenty of Trump supporters still want him to “lock her up” and could not care less about Russia’s potential involvement in the presidential race.
Trump, easily bored, proudly vindictive and addicted to TV, has not only the resources of the American government at his disposal, but also a coterie of billionaire buddies—in Russia you’d call them oligarchs—committed to disseminating “alternative facts” to muddy the waters and manipulate the public.
In Trump’s America, a white Southerner who’s never stood up or even shown much concern for black citizens can become “a civil rights champion.”
This is a war on reality.