Presidential debates are a great opportunity to showcase competing visions of America. These debates drive the national conversation as we continue to define “American” over the next year.
So when a debate is interrupted by a paid political advertisement designed to divide us, it does a disservice to our nation.
During the CNN/New York Times debate last night, the news network set our national conversation back by airing an ad that aims to pit Americans against one another. A group called NumbersUSA produced this ad — you may have seen it on CNN, on Hulu or even on the livestream of the debate you were watching. The real aim of the ad was to pit some Americans against other Americans: hard-working immigrants and people of color.
Ironically, when we watch this ad on mute, we see a beautiful vision of the United States: diverse communities working hard together to build infrastructure, deploy new technologies, start businesses and raise their families.
Media outlets have plenty of good reasons to reject ads like this:
- NumbersUSA is part of the network of extreme anti-immigrant groups founded and funded by John Tanton, a Michigan eye doctor who thought the U.S. should remain a white country.
- The group and its long-time director, Roy Beck, aim to make immigration “radioactive” in as many places as possible, through ads like these, and to “halt all immigration possible.”
- The group and other Tanton-founded immigration groups have a huge influence on the current administration’s immigration policy, spending millions of dollars to end DACA, eliminate refugee resettlement, drastically cut or eliminate the number of immigrant visas available and militarize the border.
- The group has taken money from foundations that also fund white nationalist and neo-Nazi groups, like the Pioneer Fund and the Colcom Foundation.
- The ad points viewers to biased polling that CNN and New York Times reporters would reject out of hand.
These are all red flags for advertising on mainstream news networks like CNN or the New York Times.
What can you do?
- Tell @CNN to reject ads that pit Americans against one another through overt or coded racist language.
- Tell @CNN to reject ads funded by white nationalist money. Pretty simple.
- Tell your friends to UNFOLLOW NumbersUSA and other extreme anti-immigrant groups on Facebook.
- Read more about the Tanton network at sourcesmatter.com.
- Read about the influence of Tanton groups on major U.S. newspapers in the Trump era.