The Trump campaign is running ads on Facebook depicting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as a puppet of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), his former rival for the Democratic nomination — invoking a classic anti-Semitic image of a Jewish public figure as a puppetmaster.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee funded the ads and ran them through the Facebook campaign accounts for both Donald J. Trump and Team Trump. The Trump campaign is also running similar versions of this ad, but featuring either Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or former President Barack Obama in the puppeteer role:
According to a Media Matters analysis, the Trump campaign has spent at least $14,000 on more than 295 ads that show Sanders as a puppeteer. These ads earned at least 550,000 impressions, with about 16 ads currently active at time of writing.
The campaign has spent even more on ads with identical text that show Pelosi and Obama as the puppeteers. Versions of the ad depicting Pelosi cost the campaign at least $65,000 for over 400 ads that have earned over 2 million impressions. More than 290 additional ads showing Obama as the puppeteer cost the campaign at least $19,000 and earned over 700,000 impressions. Dozens of these ads with Pelosi and Obama are currently active and have the potential to reach millions of people.
Imagery of prominent Jews pulling the strings of those in power is stunningly reminiscent of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, as noted by the progressive Jewish organization If Not Now.
In June, the Trump campaign ran a Facebook ad, which the platform eventually took down, fearmongering about the loosely knit antifa movement using an inverted triangle — a symbol used by the Nazis to identify political prisoners in the concentration camps.
In August, Facebook announced that under its hate speech policies it would remove posts that promote anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This announcement came while the social media giant has been under intense criticism from the Stop Hate for Profit coalition.
Right-wing media figures have also used the “puppet master” imagery for conspiracy theories about Jewish philanthropist George Soros, a Holocaust survivor, going at least as far as back as 2010. This noxious rhetoric has appeared in right-wing media over the years and became a frequent theme during the Trump impeachment investigation.