U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is currently running Facebook ads with “real people” who support the president. And while it’s accurate to say these people are “real” in the sense that they’re human beings and not robots from the TV show Westworld, they’re not just average people off the street. Many are political operatives.
Take this ad that’s currently running on Facebook. It shows Kim Sherk, who’s not identified by name in the ad, and yet is the president of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women. A Georgia newspaper, the Marietta Daily Journal recognised Sherk, which might be why these ads are running in states like California, Illinois, and Mississippi, according to the Facebook ad library, rather than her home state of Georgia.
“As a small business owner, President Trump has been the greatest president we have seen,” Sherk says in the video, which is also available on Trump’s official YouTube page. “He has increased jobs. I know there are more women who have been employed and minorities than ever before.”
Sherk ends the video by thanking President Trump for the “greatest economic environment” she’s ever seen in her lifetime. But the ad never identifies Sherk as a political operative, let alone one who’s visited the White House, as we can see from a photo posted to the Cobb County Republican Party website.
As the Cobb County Republican Party website explains:
Kim Sherk has served in numerous positions in the Republican Party and the Republican Women. She is currently the President of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women and immediate past President of the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club.
Before being elected 1st Vice-Chairman, she served as Political Director and Secretary for the Cobb County Republican Party.
Sherk’s group, the Georgia Federation of Republican Women, is currently recruiting volunteers to “monitor” polls on Election Day to make sure the election is “free from fraud.” President Trump has repeatedly said that the election will be rigged, and that the only valid outcome is a victory for his campaign. In fact, Trump said at a press conference yesterday that he wouldn’t accept a peaceful transition of power if he loses to Joe Biden, adding that it would only be peaceful if they got rid of the “ballots.” Trump was presumably referring to mail-in ballots, which he incorrectly insists are inherently fraudulent.
Sherk appears to be one of many people who are showing up in Trump ads on YouTube and Facebook who aren’t acknowledged as being close to the Trump campaign. Instead, they’re called “real people,” which, again, is technically accurate. These are human beings, as far as Gizmodo can tell. But the average voter probably has a different idea of “real people” in political ads that doesn’t include a current operator in a given state’s political machinery. Sherk did not immediately respond to an email early Thursday morning.
Another ad currently being run by the Trump campaign on Facebook shows viewers a group of people sitting in a circle and talking about the dangers of a potential Biden presidency. While it might look like a typical focus group, featuring average people off the street, the video is anything but. Some of the people in the video are former and aspiring politicians, including one woman who’s currently running for the U.S. House in Minnesota and a man who was a delegate at the Republican National Convention in both 2016 and 2020.
The new ad, which is being pushed out hard in Iowa, according to data from Facebook’s political ad library, includes women like Fern Smith, who’s not identified by name in the ad, but says she would be “very scared if Joe Biden became president.”
Incidentally, Smith is running as a Republican in Minnesota’s House District 51B. Smith has endorsements from the Minnesota Gun Owners PAC, the Minnesota Police, and Peace Officers Association, according to her campaign website. Smith also has the endorsement of Minnesotans For Affordable Health Insurance, a group that opposes Medicare For All and supports private health insurance. The group also opposed Obamacare in 2014, according to its Facebook page, though it’s not clear who funds the PAC.
Curiously, there doesn’t appear to be any mention of Trump on Smith’s website, despite the fact that she’s appearing in ads for him. Fern did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday.
Another person seen in the focus group-style ad is Steve Wenzel who says in the Facebook ad that “President Trump is the right person for this nation’s economy.” Wenzel is also not named in the ad.
Wenzel was a Minnesota state legislator in the 1970s and ‘80s and served as a Democrat, something that local media seems to relish. But most importantly, Wenzel was a delegate at the Republican National Convention in both 2016 and 2020, according to the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper in Minnesota. Wenzel attended the convention in 2016; this year’s convention was virtual.
“I was greatly honoured to be again elected a delegate from Minnesota to the Republican National Convention and to be able, again as in 2016, to vote to re-nominate President Trump for a second term as our president,” Wenzel said in a press release, according to the Dispatch.
“President Trump’s leadership led our nation to a great economic boom and will again restore our economy when the China virus/pandemic is gone,” Wenzel continued. “President Trump also restored America’s national defence and our military to one of strength following President Obama’s decimation of our national defence budget and military strength.”
Wenzel told the Star Tribune newspaper last month that he used to be a Democrat back when they supported labour, but now the Democrats only support “regulations and environmentalism,” according to Wenzel. The Star Tribune story didn’t mention anything about Wenzel calling covid-19 the “China virus.”
There’s nothing wrong with a political delegate giving their testimony about why they support a candidate, but there’s something a little weird about explicitly calling them “real people” in your social media advertising.
Every political campaign in history has stretched the truth a bit to put out a positive message. But Trump’s campaign, aside from being racist and fascist, has been particularly deceitful when it comes to using “real people” in their ads. Even Trump’s “opponents” like antifa aren’t represented accurately. There are real people on the street right now who identify as anti-fascist, but the Trump campaign has repeatedly used old photos and photos of political demonstrations in other countries.
Again, technically all of the people in these latest Facebook ads are “real” people. But it starts to make you wonder why they can’t just talk exclusively to small business owners that don’t also happen to be working for the Republican Party. There are a lot of people out there who support Trump. Millions, in fact. But perhaps those aren’t the ones that Trump’s campaign strategists want to show off to the world.