President Trump’s 2016 campaign has been accused of seeking to deter millions of Black voters in battleground states from voting with negative Hillary Clinton ads on Facebook. The effort was concentrated in 16 states, several of which Trump won because the Black Democratic vote essentially collapsed.
Trump’s 2016 campaign used a “vast cache of data” on almost 200 million American voters, with 3.5 million Black Americans categorized as “deterrence,” or voters that they didn’t want to cast ballots, according to a Channel 4 News report.
According to the investigation, the campaign’s goal was to dissuade Black Americans from voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton, targeting them with “dark adverts” on their Facebook feeds, which heavily attacked Clinton and, in some cases, argued Clinton lacked sympathy with Black Americans. Cambridge Analytica, the election consultant that shut down in 2018 after allegations it used dirty tricks to win elections across the globe and gained unauthorized access to tens of millions of Facebook profiles, is sadi to have assisted in the effort.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s former digital director, who was committed to a mental institution Monday, denied the allegations in a 2018 interview with PBS Frontline.
“I would say I’m nearly 100 percent sure we did not run any campaigns that targeted even African-Americans,” he said.
However, the evidence is stacked against the campaign. In Michigan, which Trump won in 2016 by 10,000 votes, Black voters make up 15% of the state, but represented 33% of the special deterrence category, pointing to the campaign targeting Black voters in the state.
The same goes for Wisconsin, where 5.4% of voters are black, but 17% of the deterrence group. According to Channel 4, the percentage amounted to more than a third of the Black voters in the state.
Trump’s digital campaign also used attack ads against Clinton, including a video clip of controversial remarks made by Clinton in 1996, saying it was necessary “to have an organized effort against gangs”, and their members.
“They are often the kinds of kids that are called super predators – no conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first, we have to bring them to heel,” Clinton added.
Clinton apologized for the remarks in February 2016, but the Trump campaign heavily leaned on the comments leading up to the election.
Facebook, which has begun implementing measures to protect from misinformation campaigns, said it has no record of the ads because they were pulled quickly after the Trump campaign stopped paying for them.
In a statement to Digital Trends, the Trump campaign’s communications director Tim Murtaugh denied the allegations and added Trump has built a relationship of trust with Black Americans.
“President Trump has built a relationship of trust with African American voters because of the First Step Act‘s criminal justice reform, creating Opportunity Zones and his recently announced Platinum Plan to invest $500B in the Black community. Democrats deterred voters in 2016 by nominating Hillary Clinton, who called Black men ‘Super Predators,’ and they did it again this year by nominating Joe Biden, who has advocated for racist policies such as the 1994 Crime Bill and even spoke at the funeral of a Klan member.”
President Trump, who won 8% of the Black vote in 2016, has had a contentious first term with Black voters. During his first term, Black voters have watched Trump praise the Charlottesville protests and call Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players protesting police brutality “disgraceful.” Trump also called the Black Lives Matter mural in New York “a symbol of hate” and praised police officers in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed.
Many movements by Black Americans over the past year, including National Black Voter Day, have aimed to register more Black voters in order to defeat President Trump and push Black Americans to enter politics.