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Trump Campaign's Ad Showing 'Real' American Workers Actually Uses Foreign Stock Photos

The MAGA team used Turkish stock photos of a bearded hipster and a Japanese coffee shop instead of finding 'real' Americans to appear in its ads.

by Jelisa Castrodale
Jul 3 2019, 7:58pm

Photo: Getty Images / Composite image by VICE Staff

In mid-May, President Donald Trump spent 20-plus minutes standing in the White House Rose Garden, squinting in the midday sun as he spoke about his plan to overhaul the country's current immigration system. One of his repeated talking points was the suggestion that immigrants are coming to the United States and swiping jobs from Americans. "Unfortunately, the current immigration rules allow foreign workers to substitute for Americans seeking entry-level jobs," he said. "So, foreign workers are coming in and they’re taking the jobs that would normally go to American workers."

Ignoring the fact that immigrants actually "help increase overall hiring for the U.S. economy," as the Associated Press put it, Trump's own re-election campaign has now been outed for using Turkish stock photos of a bearded hipster and a Japanese coffee shop instead of, you know, finding real Americans to appear in its Facebook ads.

The Trump Make America Great Again Committee has been running a series of short ads on Facebook, including one that features a smiling, suspenders-wearing twentysomething who is identified as Thomas from Washington. "President Trump and his family and the administration are in our prayers for strength and wisdom from God Almighty," a voice presumed to belong to Thomas says. "God bless."

But as journalist Judd Legum pointed out in a Twitter thread, Thomas isn't a Washington barista: He's a man who was selected from a stock photo site, one whose pics are listed under the key words "Bearded and tattooed hipster coffee shop owner." On top of that, the AP discovered that the videos of "Thomas" were submitted by a production company called GM Stock that is based in Izmir, Turkey. (WHAT?! YOU MEAN THOMAS MIGHT BE A FOREIGN WORKER!??!!!!!) Business Insider also found Thomas' supposed coffee shop in Getty Images' iStock video library—and it's actually the exterior of what looks to be a watch repair joint in Tokyo, Japan.

“As a producer, you want to control—you want people to look a certain way and you want them to sound a certain way,” former cable TV exec Jay Newell told the AP. “The fact that the footage is from outside the U.S. makes it that much more embarrassing.”

It's also gloriously ironic that the text accompanying the ads calls out the "constant stream of lies from the FAKE NEWS media." (When Thomas first appears on camera, the words "Actual Testimonial, Actor Portrayal," are visible in a tiny, easy-to-miss font in the bottom left corner of the screen.) "My popularity is higher than ever," the Facebook text continues—but if that's the case, then why couldn't the campaign find an actual American barista in an actual American coffee shop who would smile placidly while that voiceover talked about praying for the President?

In addition to "Thomas," the Trump campaign has two other ads that feature stock footage of supposed real-life members of Team MAGA. The one that focuses on a young blonde woman identified as "Tracey from Florida" is from a video clip produced by a company called Tuto Photos, which has been tagged as "human face," "non U.S. location," and "Mediterranean Sea." (The French language website for Tuto Photos lists its address as Les Adrets de L'Esterel, France.)

And "AJ from Texas," the supposed Democrat-turned-Trump voter, was also selected from a stock photo site; this time, it's a "Mature Man Portrait" which was submitted to iStockphoto by the Sao Paolo, Brazil-based Frazao Studio.

So… what were you saying about fake news?