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Kentucky Democrat’s campaign ad features lynched bodies spelling out “Good Ol' Boy System”

The Kentucky Democratic Party wasted no time distancing itself from the candidate.

It’s a generally a good idea to avoid depictions of lynching in campaign ads. Kentucky Democrat Bobby Smith apparently didn’t get the memo. Smith, who’s running for judge-executive in Spencer County near Louisville, ran a campaign ad in a local newspaper this week that spelled out “Good Ol’ Boy System” with the silhouettes of four lynched bodies hanging from a tree. The Kentucky Democratic Party wasted no time distancing itself from Smith and said “there’s no defense for making light of lynching.”


The advertisement reads: “Some hard choices need to be made to make Spencer County great again. I will make those choices.”

Smith didn’t mean for the advertisement to represent the lynching of actual people, he told the Courier-Journal. "I don't have any racial tendencies — none," Smith told the paper. "That (ad) doesn't have anything about race in it and somebody is making up s---. I'll apologize, but if the Democratic Party don't like it that's their problem, but I'll apologize."

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rather, the ad is supposed to symbolically depict the lynching of a system in Spencer County. Fewer than 2 percent of the people living there are black, according to the Courier-Journal. One person was lynched in Spencer County in 1905, according to data kept by the paper, compared to 186 lynchings of black people across the state from 1877 to 1950. "If people want to make an issue out of it, that's OK with me," he told the paper. "If the Democrats want to make an issue out of it, I'll apologize to anybody who is offended, but they need to apologize to me for being crooked."

Smith also made a point to tell the Courier-Journal that he decorates his home with pictures of black people who have fished at his farm’s pond in Spencer County. He mentioned he was friends with Louisville’s first African-American fire chief, Larry Bonnafon.

“THE GOOD OLD BOY SYSTEM INCLUDES EVERYBODY me you and everyone else no one is excluded,” he wrote in a Facebook post on his campaign page that acknowledged his ad had “created some interest.” One commenter took to Smith’s campaign Facebook page Thursday night to say he should withdraw from the race. Another called the ad “shameful.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party has also called for the candidate to apologize. “The Kentucky Democratic Party immediately responded to Mr. Smith’s offensive and appalling ad - given its imagery. There is no defense for making light of lynching. Mr. Smith should have immediately rescinded it and apologized,” said Brad Bowman, a spokesman for the Kentucky Democratic Party, in a statement to VICE News.

Cover image: Screenshot via Twitter