Republican Senator David Perdue of Georgia has been called out for running a Facebook ad campaign that featured a digitally manipulated photo of his opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, with a bigger nose. Ossoff is Jewish and depictions of cartoonishly large noses have been a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda for over a century. Senator Perdue’s re-election campaign called the editing of the image “accidental” and refused to apologise.
The photoshopped ad, first reported by Forward, featured photos of Ossoff along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who’s also Jewish, and included text that reads “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!” along with “Schumer’s SUPER PAC is spending $US3 ($4) million in Georgia for Jon Ossoff!”
The original unedited photo was taken for Reuters by photojournalist Chris Aluka Berry in 2017 after Ossoff lost an election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Perdue’s campaign denied that the edit had been intentional and sought to distance itself from the unnamed designer who made the ad.
“In the graphic design process handled by an outside vendor, the photo was resized and a filter was applied, which appears to have caused an unintentional error that distorted the image,” the campaign told Forward.
The campaign's statement continued that this was "obviously" an "accidental" edit, though didn't explain how such a manipulation could be made by mistake.
"Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue's strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate," the campaign insisted.
But Ossoff, who's essentially tied in current polling with Perdue, isn't buying the Republican's excuses.
"This is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history," Ossoff wrote in a tweet Monday night. "Senator, literally no one believes your excuses."
Other Facebook ads that are currently being run by Perdue call Ossoff a "privileged liberal" and warn his Democratic opponent will impose socialism on America.
"By stopping Jon Ossoff, we can stop socialism. Donate $US10 ($14) to help save America from the radical left," one Facebook ad reads.
Ossoff, who graduated from the London School of Economics, is largely considered a mainstream Democrat and has never advocated for socialism. As just one example of his "moderate" beliefs, Ossoff opposes Medicare For All and says he wants to create universal health care while retaining the private insurance market, as he told the New York Times in 2019.
Curiously, less than 20% of people who saw the new Facebook ad actually live in Georgia. Facebook allows advertisers to decide the states in which they want their ads to appear, and the ad ran heavily in places like Florida, Texas, and California, according to the Facebook Ad Library, which archives political ads for transparency purposes.
Perdue, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, has advocated for abolishing the Environmental Protection Agency, wants to get rid of Obamacare, and opposes marriage equality.
Perdue's campaign website from 2017 explained:
I believe that we should promote a culture that values life and protects the innocent, especially the unborn. I also believe that we must protect traditional marriage, keeping it clearly defined as between one man and one woman. Being pro-life and believing in the sanctity of marriage are my deeply held personal convictions. I will not waver in defending them if I have the privilege of serving you in the U.S Senate.
President Trump got into his own trouble with Photoshop when his campaign manipulated photos to make the 45th president look thinner in early 2019. There were even multiple photos where Trump's fingers were made longer.
And Trump is no stranger to anti-Semitic imagery, including a negative tweet image he sent in 2016 with a Star of David that his campaign later said was a "sheriff's star." More recently, Trump's campaign ran Facebook ads featuring a red triangle identical to the ones used for political prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
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