The subject of a recent Joe Biden campaign ad says he and his family have faced vicious and disturbing harassment since the one-minute television spot debuted and sparked backlash from President Donald Trump’s campaign and his conservative media allies.
“All I did was speak up for my employees and community, and yet this is the price my family and I have to pay?” Joe Malcoun said in an email shared with The Daily Beast.
Earlier this week, Biden’s campaign released the national TV ad featuring Malcoun, a businessman who owns an Ann Arbor, Michigan live music venue The Blind Pig. In the commercial, Malcoun described the struggles that small independent music venues face due to the coronavirus pandemic and the halting of live performances with seemingly no end in sight.
“Right now, it’s an empty room,” Malcoun said in the ad. “This is the reality of Trump’s COVID response. We don’t know how much longer we can survive not having any revenue.”
But the former vice president’s detractors were quick to claim the ad misrepresented Malcoun’s financial standing and interests.
Conservative media outlets including Fox News, The Daily Caller, the Washington Free Beacon, and the New York Post all published articles attacking Malcoun’s appearance because he is actually a well-off businessman with tech investments and wealth inherited from his wife’s family. In effect, Trump allies suggested the Biden campaign had inflated the suffering of local music venue owners by presenting a wealthy man as a struggling bar owner.
The Trump campaign boosted that narrative, eventually claiming the Biden team yanked the ad because it was caught in a lie about Malcoun’s background. “In their desperation to pin something else on the president, they fabricated a story in a last-ditch effort to lie to voters because nothing else has worked—and they got caught,” Trump spokesperson Ken Farnaso told The New York Times.
The Biden campaign told The Daily Beast it had been aware of the bar-owner’s inheritance—which Malcoun had publicly spoken about for years and described as “like winning the lottery”—but did not think it detracted from the struggle that many small business owners were facing due to the coronavirus pandemic. Malcoun did not explicitly claim in the ad that his personal finances would be in trouble should The Blind Pig be forced to shut down.
A spokesperson for the ex-veep’s team said they had removed the ad because Malcoun informed them that the blowback to the TV spot had resulted in a torrent of harassment against him and his family—both online and in-person.
In an email shared with The Daily Beast, Malcoun wrote that “Ever since Fox News and right wing media outlets decided to mischaracterize the ad, my family and I have experienced constant harassment online and offline.” He continued: “Our phone numbers and family home address were doxxed and publicized. Our phones are ringing non-stop with people threatening us. Our social media accounts are flooded with hate and vitriol. Strangers have shown up to my family’s doorstep looking to harass us after a Craigslist ad published all of our personal information.”
Music venues and bars have been some of the businesses hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, having remained closed in many states for more than seven months due to restrictions aimed at preventing large gatherings in poorly ventilated indoor spaces—which public-health experts agree make the perfect breeding grounds for COVID-19.
Earlier this year, a number of such bars formed the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), which has been lobbying Congress and the Trump administration for a financial bailout package, one of which recently passed the House of Representatives.
“We have been sounding the alarm since April that if our members don’t get emergency assistance, they will go under forever—and it’s happening,” NIVA spokesperson Audrey Fix Schaefer said in a statement. “This is real. We need help. We urge Congress and the White House to continue negotiations and reach a deal quickly or there will be a mass collapse of this industry.”