The backlash has been swift over a new Republican political ad that warns of “white Democrats” bringing back the days of “lynchings when a white girl screams rape.” But the head of the group that ran the spot defended it as simply “hard-hitting” in an interview with VICE News.
The ad features two black women discussing the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. One woman wonders if Democrats can accuse Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault with “no evidence.”
“What will happen to our husbands, our fathers or our sons when a white girl lies on them?” she asks.
“Girl, white Democrats will be lynching black folk again,” the other woman interjects.
Vernon Robinson, head of Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, which aired the ad, said he’s put out a version supporting Arkansas Republican Rep. French Hill and one attacking Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a moderate Democrat who notably voted against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
In a statement, Hill said he “condemn[ed] this outrageous ad in the strongest terms,” but Robinson said he has no plans to take it down because it points out the danger posed to black men, in particular, by the Me Too movement.
“All it is is hard-hitting. I believe the Me Too movement deserves every hit they take. Shifting the presumption of innocence to the presumption of guilt is very dangerous for black men,” Robison told VICE News. “Black men are going to catch hell if they’re accused.”
Robinson cited the case of Emmett Till, a black teen lynched in 1955 after a white woman falsely accused him of flirting with her and grabbing her waist. Robinson also pointed to the book, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” in which a black man is convicted for raping a white woman despite evidence suggesting his accusers were lying.
“White Democrats were responsible for the lynchings of every black person since 1880,” Robinson added. “The Klan was the paramilitary wing of the Democratic Party.” .
Pressed on whether he truly believes lynching would return to the mainstream if a Democrat defeats Hill, Robinson said it was possible. But his explanation for the ad seemed to draw on an earlier era, when relationships between white women and black men were seen as illicit.
If you get caught [with a white woman], she’s going to cry rape, and you will be toast,” Robinson said. “Every black man was told that. Every black woman told that to their sons.” Robinson said his own mother warned him to be wary of relationships with white women.
Robinson’s explanation of the controversial ad is an indication of his target audience: Older black voters. Backed by a relatively small media buy (less than $50,000), the ad is airing on urban contemporary radio aimed at voters 35 and older in the St. Louis, Kansas City, and Little Rock media markets. Robinson said he didn’t bother to air on hip-hop stations because “hip-hop voters don’t vote.”
The ad is the second in a series to make up for what Robinson sees as the “political malpractice” of the Republican Party ignoring black voters. The first focused on abortion. In that, one woman charges that Democrats view Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger as a “hero” but added that she created the organization to “exterminate black folks.”
“The next time a Democrat asks for our vote, ask them why they don’t want our children,” another woman says to conclude the ad.
Robinson also plans to air a third ad focused on the economy in the run-up to the midterm elections. He said cutting into Democrats’ historic advantage with black voters through “hard-hitting, high-contrast ads” could help the Missouri Senate seat to Republicans and defend Rep. Hill in Arkansas.
“Black voters are the voters that there is no Democrat wave without,” Robinson said.
The strategist, however, isn’t known for his electoral successes. He’s made multiple failed bids for public office since the mid-90s and drew negative media attention for his role as the head of a super PAC formed to draft Ben Carson to run for president in 2016. In that role, he paid himself a salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As head of Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, he paid his own consulting firm more than $6,600 in the third fundraising quarter this cycle, out of the approximately $86,000 the group spent overall.
Cover image: Republican Vernon Robinson is shown March 16, 2004, during a candidate's debate in Kernersville, N.C. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)