On Fox News' Your World, Floyd Brown, creator of a new ad claiming that Sen. Barack Obama is "weak in the war on gangs," asserted: "[I]n Chicago, we saw six people killed and over 31 injured. People were stabbed. This is, you know, like Baghdad. And he was the state senator there, and he didn't do anything to clean it up, and I think it's a legitimate issue." Host Neil Cavuto gave no indication that Obama has responded to the ad, much less provide Obama's response.
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On the April 23 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto interviewed Floyd Brown, creator of the infamous Willie Horton ad, who recently released an ad that attacks Sen. Barack Obama over a 2001 vote he cast in the Illinois Senate in opposition to H.B. 1812, which would have, among other things, made defendants eligible for the death penalty for committing a murder in furtherance of the activities of an organized gang. The ad concludes by asking about Obama, "Can a man so weak in the war on gangs be trusted in the war on terror?" During the interview, Cavuto noted the ad's question about Obama and terrorism and asked: "[Y]ou are implying, since he was presumably ineffective at dealing with some of these issues in his own home turf, how could he deal with guys meaning us harm, I guess terrorists. It's a bit of a leap, don't you think?" Brown replied: "I don't think so at all. What you have is a pattern of weakness, a pattern of a man who hasn't been able to stand up against tough situations. I mean, just this past weekend, Neil, in Chicago, we saw six people killed and over 31 injured. People were stabbed. This is, you know, like Baghdad. And he was the state senator there, and he didn't do anything to clean it up, and I think it's a legitimate issue." Cavuto gave no indication that Obama had responded to the ad, much less provide Obama's response.
Obama's campaign issued a statement in response to the ad, which said in part: "Floyd Brown and the garbage he puts on TV represent everything the American people hate about politics, and we look forward to John McCain denouncing this shameful effort to boost his candidacy using Willie Horton ads." The campaign also posted a Fact Check, which, among other things, listed legislation Obama voted for in the state senate targeting gang violence:
- HB4788 (5/13/04): According to its synopsis, the bill "[c]reates the offense of criminal street gang recruitment on school grounds. Provides that a person commits the offense when on school grounds he or she threatens the use of physical force to coerce, solicit, recruit, or induce another person to join or remain a member of a criminal street gang, or conspires to do so. Provides that criminal street gang recruitment on school grounds is a Class 4 felony."
- HB506 (5/7/03): The bill provides "that if the State presents evidence that the offense committed by the defendant was related to or in furtherance of the criminal activities of an organized gang or was motivated by the defendant's membership in or allegiance to an organized gang, and if the court determines that the evidence may be substantiated, the court shall prohibit the defendant from associating with other members of the organized gang as a condition of bail or release."
- HB2529 (5/13/03): "Amends the Illinois Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act," so that it "[i]ncludes in the definition of 'course or pattern of criminal activity', acts of criminal defacement of property if the defacement includes a sign or other symbol intended to identify the streetgang."
- SB400 (3/18/1999): "Permits the court, as a condition of probation, to require that the minor undergo a medical or other procedure to have a tattoo symbolizing allegiance to a street gang removed from his or her body."
- HB2287 (5/9/97): "Makes it unlawful for a peace officer or correctional officer to knowingly commit an act in furtherance of gang-related activities, except when acting in furtherance of an undercover law enforcement investigation."
Cavuto also left out any mention of the reasons Obama gave at the time for voting against the bill identified in the ad. During the Senate debate, he said that the bill could be used to "target particular neighborhoods, particular individuals," while the death penalty should be applied "absolutely uniform across the board." Cavuto also failed to note that then-Gov. George H. Ryan (R) vetoed the bill, stating that it was "misdirected in light of existing laws, constitutional concerns and our past history of erroneously sentencing individuals to death."
Media Matters for America has documented other examples of media figures uncritically airing or repeating the assertions put forth in Brown's ad attacking Obama.
From the April 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Attack ad mania, 13 days ahead of the North Carolina primary. Just hours ago, a conservative group releasing this ad, hammering both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. All right, it was a pretty nasty ad. I'll get to the details as we discuss it with my next guest.
Floyd Brown is the man behind it. He is the president of the National Campaign Fund, and Floyd, the rap against the ad, and I hope to show it very shortly, is that there's implied racism in it, and equating a lot of the riots that were going on in Chicago and the uprisings in Chicago with the city councilman at the time, state senator at the time, Barack Obama at the time, with having any ability to deal with that. Is that fair?
BROWN: That's not fair at all, Neil. In fact, it's a bunch of bunk. And if you look at the polling results real carefully what you'll find is that the racism that exists, exists inside the Democratic primary voters. In fact, if you analyze the vote from Pennsylvania real closely what you're going to see is a lot of those Hillary voters voted against Barack just because he was black. You don't see that same kind of racism in the Republican Party.
CAVUTO: OK, but the rap against the ad, Floyd, is that it's implied racism. Is it?
BROWN: It's not. I challenge anybody to watch the advertisement.
CAVUTO: What are you trying to say in the ad?
BROWN: Well, in the coin ad, we're talking about taxes, and we are talking about -- you know -- licenses for illegal aliens, and the other ad that I released, the victims ad, we talked about victims, several of which were African-American, and you know this is a serious issue -- crime. You can't say every time you talk about crime, you're talking about racism. You know, not all criminals are black, and not all criminals are white, but victims are both black and white. This isn't racism; this is about an important issue where Barack Obama has had no leadership, the crime issue.
CAVUTO: All right, so, what some are charging for -- and I think the gist of their argument is that you are implying, since he was presumably ineffective at dealing with some of these issues in his own home turf, how could he deal with guys meaning us harm, I guess terrorists. It's a bit of a leap, don't you think?
BROWN: I don't think so at all. What you have is a pattern of weakness, a pattern of a man who hasn't been able to stand up against tough situations. I mean, just this past weekend, Neil, in Chicago, we saw six people killed and over 31 injured. People were stabbed. This is, you know, like Baghdad. And he was the state senator there, and he didn't do anything to clean it up, and I think it's a legitimate issue.
CAVUTO: OK, now have any of the McCain people, Floyd, talked to you as they did my last guest, Brent Woodcox, and told you, "Pull this ad"?
BROWN: First of all, Neil, that would be a violation of campaign rules --
CAVUTO: I know that, but it wasn't a violation of them sending a letter to the prior guest, so did they do anything like that with you?
BROWN: No, and why in the world would they try to violate the law? I don't see -- the Congress has made it very clear: Independent campaigns are not to be coordinated at all with major presidential campaigns.
CAVUTO: Absolutely, but they can voice frustration with an ad that they think might speak for them when they say that it does not. So no one -- let me just say, no one from the McCain campaign has contacted you or expressed frustration or opposition to that?
BROWN: Neil, that would be a violation of the current campaign finance laws, and I don't see them doing it.
CAVUTO: Well, then they violated it with my last guest, because they told him take the ad down.
BROWN: Well, he's with the Republican Party; I'm not. I'm with an independent committee. I don't have anything to do with their campaign, and so, I don't expect to be getting any kind of letter or communication from them, because that would be a clear violation of the law.
CAVUTO: All right, Floyd Brown, thank you very much.