An ad from Black Americans for the President's Agenda in an Arkansas congressional race features a woman saying "white Democrats will be lynching black folk again." Both the Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger have condemned it, and the Arkansas GOP filed a state ethics complaint over it.
In Missouri, the radio ad favoring Republican challenger Josh Hawley and attacking Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, does not mention lynching. Instead, the woman says that if Democrats prevail in mid-term elections, "black folk will be catching hell again" and that black men could face allegations of rape.
Hawley spokeswoman Kelli Ford said in an email, "Of course we don't support this." The ads in both states were scheduled to run through Friday. "We have a plan, we're executing the plan," Vernon Robinson, the PAC's co-founder and treasurer, told The Associated Press. Robinson has said the ad is part of a $50,000 buy.
Robinson said the reference to lynching was removed from the Missouri ad because the attorney for a St. Louis radio station demanded it be left out before the station would run it. Instead of mentioning "race verdicts, life sentences and lynchings when a white girl screams rape," the Missouri ad talks about "race verdicts, life sentences or worse."
But Robinson said, "The reality is, every black person in St. Louis knows what 'or worse' means." Both ads invoke the accusation that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was a teenager. The ad implies that Democrats' support for Kavanaugh's accuser means black men wouldn't be protected from unfounded rape claims.
In both ads, a woman says that she is voting for the Republican candidate to protect "our men and boys." In the Arkansas ad, for Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill against Democratic challenger Clarke Tucker, the woman says, "We can't afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days."
Arkansas Republicans on Friday filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission against the PAC, saying it had not registered to campaign in Arkansas and that the ads were running illegally. Robinson on Friday said the complaint was "utterly without merit" and that the state Ethics Commission didn't have jurisdiction over federal PACs.
Tucker and Democrats are relying in part on heavy turnout from African-Americans to flip the 2nd District seat, which covers Little Rock and seven central Arkansas counties. The North Carolina-based PAC was formed earlier this year and this week reported having about $52,507 cash on hand and $62,769 in debt. Robinson is a former city councilman from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has run unsuccessfully for Congress in the state and led a super PAC aimed at drafting Ben Carson into the 2016 presidential race.
The ad isn't the first time racially-charged issues have come into play in the race. Tucker last month denounced immigration attack mailers sent out by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton's PAC as "racist." Tucker earlier this month said a statue of his great-great-grandfather should be removed from the U.S. Capitol, condemning his ancestor's statement that the South looked to the Democratic Party to preserve "white standards."
Hill and Tucker are both white. The 2nd District is about 23 percent black, according to U.S. Census estimates. About 12 percent of Missouri's residents are black. While African-Americans are a core constituency for Democrats, McCaskill has struggled to overcome perceptions that she's ignored black constituents.
Her campaign did not respond immediately to email messages seeking comment about the radio ad.
Hanna reported from Topeka, Kansas.
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