Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie released a series of anti-immigrant ads based on right-wing media myths in an attempt to link his Democratic opponent, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, to sanctuary city policies, which Gillespie falsely claims would cause more violent crime in Virginia. Gillespie’s ads, which also feature other misleading components, are now being promoted by right-wing media figures.
Virginia gubernatorial candidate ties sanctuary cities to a rise in violent gangs in “racist” ads
Republican Ed Gillespie released four ads tying his opponent to gang violence over support for sanctuary cities. Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee in the Virginia gubernatorial race, has released a series of four advertisements that, according to The Washington Post, “try to tie his Democratic rival for governor, Ralph Northam, to MS-13 gang violence” over Northam’s refusal to block a bill that would have banned sanctuary cities in Virginia. [The Washington Post, 9/29/17]
Gillespie’s ads have been criticized for “classic racist fear-mongering.” As The Washington Post noted, Gillespie’s campaign ads have been criticized for “play[ing] on racial stereotypes.” Splinter called the ads “fear-mongering” and “racist.” Political science professor Rich Meagher wrote for RVA Mag that the ads are “classic racist fear-mongering.” [The Washington Post, 9/29/17, Splinter, 9/21/17, RVA Mag, 9/25/17]
Right-wing media are promoting the ads, falsely claiming they are accurate
Wash. Times: “There is nothing inaccurate in” Gillespie’s ad. The Washington Times’ editorial board defended Gillespie’s ad, saying he “should not take down the Northam/MS-13 ad” despite calls to do so, because “there is nothing inaccurate in it.” The Washington Times editorial went even further to suggest Gillespie “should stand fast” with the ad, because “Mr. Northam’s record suggests, loud and clear, that he doesn’t take the problems wrought by illegal immigration and the threat of MS-13 as seriously as he should, and doesn’t want anybody to notice.” From the October 1 editorial:
Democrats have never cited anything in the television commercial [in 1998 against then-presidential candidate Michael Dukakis] that was inaccurate or misleading, but decried it nonetheless as “racist” because [convicted felon] Willie Horton is black. Ralph Northam similarly accuses Ed Gillespie, the Republican nominee for governor, of invoking Willie Horton as “a dog whistle” to white voters and demands that he withdraw an ad linking Mr. Northam to MS-13 Hispanic street gangs.
Mr. Gillespie’s campaign should not take down the Northam/MS-13 ad. There is nothing inaccurate in it. He might even double down on it, citing the case of Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, Va., who came to America illegally, and was charged in the June slaying of Nabra Hassanen, 17. She was beaten to death with a baseball bat, and her body dumped in a pond in Reston. The suspect is believed to be a member of a MS-13 gang.
Mr. Northam, like Michael Dukakis before him, naturally doesn’t want anyone to connect him with the consequences of what he does that doesn’t turn out well. A Northam spokesman says Ed Gillespie is “[trying] to frighten the voters.” Mr. Northam’s record suggests, loud and clear, that he doesn’t take the problems wrought by illegal immigration and the threat of MS-13 as seriously as he should, and doesn’t want anybody to notice. Calling candidates to account for their records is what political campaigns are about. Mr. Gillespie should stand fast. [The Washington Times, 10/1/17]
Fox’s Tucker Carlson: It’s “fair” for Gillespie’s ads “to denounce a murderous street gang.” Fox host Tucker Carlson defended Gillespie’s ads during an interview with Latino Victory Project President Cristóbal Alex, asking, “Isn’t the hostility kind of misapplied here? I mean, who’s killed more immigrants: Ed Gillespie and Donald Trump or MS-13?” Carlson added that it is “fair” for the ads to “denounce a murderous street gang” like MS-13, adding, “It’s fair to denounce them and to say that letting tons of people in illegally is going to increase the strength of the gang, which we know.” From the September 26 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:
TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): We went to El Salvador and interviewed MS-13 members in prisons in Salvador (sic). And there’s a massive movement of gang members from that country to the United States -- that’s just real. But I guess me question is, isn’t the hostility kind of misapplied here? I mean, who’s killed more immigrants: Ed Gillespie and Donald Trump or MS-13?
CARLSON: The ad itself -- look, and I’m not flaking for Gillespie -- I’m just saying, I think it’s fair to denounce a murderous street gang that is, by the way, killing Salvadoran immigrants, not American-born, but immigrants -- that’s who they prey upon. It’s fair to denounce them and to say that letting tons of people in illegally is going to increase the strength of the gang, which we know. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 9/26/17]
Infowars dismissed the claim that Gillespie’s ad is “somehow bigoted.” In a write-up of Carlson’s interview with Alex, Infowars wrote that “Carlson took to task an activist who claims that GOP efforts to denounce the violent street gang MS-13, composed of hundreds of illegal immigrants is somehow bigoted.” Additionally, according to Infowars, Carlson argued that “overwhelming numbers of MS-13 members are undocumented immigrants, and … so called ‘sanctuary cities’ are providing their activities with shelter.” [Infowars, 10/2/17]
Powerline blog: “As a campaign ad, ... Gillespie’s spot seems legitimate.” Powerline blog’s Paul Mirengoff defended Gillespie’s ad, writing, “As a campaign ad, ... Gillespie’s spot seems legitimate.” Mirengoff claimed that voting to allow sanctuary cities in Virginia “has the real potential to make life easier for MS-13 and more perilous for those it wants, in the words of its motto, to ‘Kill, Rape, Control.’” [Powerline, 9/23/17]
Gillespie’s linkage between violent gangs and sanctuary cities is based on right-wing media myths
Right-wing media have repeatedly claimed that sanctuary cities are unsafe and allow violent gangs to flourish. Conservative media figures have spent years attempting to paint sanctuary cities as unsafe areas that allow violent gangs, like MS-13, to flourish. Fox News’ Trish Regan claimed that she was too “concerned about safety” of sanctuary cities like San Francisco to visit them. In a column for Breitbart, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, asserted, “All across America, citizens have been killed or injured by illegal aliens sheltered by sanctuary cities and counties.” And in an interview with NRATV, Hans von Spakovsky argued that sanctuary city policies “kill Americans.” Similarly, in a 2015 editorial, National Review lambasted sanctuary cities, arguing that they can have “deadly consequences.” Additionally, the Washington Free Beacon blamed sanctuary cities for curtailing “efforts to curb” gangs like MS-13. [Media Matters, 4/27/17; Breitbart, 8/19/17; NRATV, 3/28/17; National Review, 7/9/15; Washington Free Beacon, 7/21/17]
Center for American Progress: Fewer crimes are committed in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties. An analysis from the Center for American Progress found, “There are, on average, 35.5 fewer crimes committed per 10,000 people in sanctuary counties compared to nonsanctuary counties.” Additionally, the report found, “Large central metro sanctuary counties have 65.4 crimes fewer per 10,000 people than large central metro nonsanctuary counties.” [Center for American Progress, 1/26/17]
NPR: Witnesses and victims in sanctuary cities are more likely to aid police. As NPR’s Gene Demby explained, “Research has shown that working with federal immigration enforcement made it harder for local police agencies to investigate crimes because witnesses and victims who were in the country illegally would be less likely to come forward if they thought they risked being detained and deported.” Political scientist Tom K. Wong told Demby, “It could be that sanctuary counties have immigrant populations who are more integrated into their social fabric and economies.” [NPR, 1/29/17]
The Economist: Law enforcement say sanctuary policies “allow them to fight MS-13 more effectively.” As The Economist noted, some law enforcement officials found that sanctuary city policies “allow them to fight MS-13 more effectively.” The Economist quoted Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who said, “MS preys on the illegal immigrant community. They extort them. They rob them. They rape them. They murder them." Beck added, without the cooperation of the local community of undocumented immigrants as witnesses, “none of this would be possible.” From the August 3 article:
While law enforcement officials agree that MS-13 is a problem that needs to be tackled, many are wary of Mr Trump’s prescription for doing so. In his speech on July 28th the president railed against sanctuary cities, where police ignore the immigration status of the victims and suspects they interact with. To Mr Trump, such policies allow immigrants with criminal records to slip back into society and commit more offences. But some police chiefs say such policies allow them to fight MS-13 more effectively. After the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) busted 21 suspected MS-13 members in May, Police Chief Charlie Beck said: “MS preys on the illegal immigrant community. They extort them. They rob them. They rape them. They murder them. Without their co-operation as witnesses, none of this would be possible.” [The Economist, 8/3/17]
Gillespie's anti-immigrant ads are riddled with even more inaccuracies
Washingtonian: “There technically aren’t any” sanctuary cities in Virginia. As Washingtonian explained, Gillespie’s line of attack against Northam on sanctuary cities is misleading because “there technically aren’t any in Virginia.” ThinkProgress did note that “some areas of the state do have sanctuary city-like policies protecting immigrants from deportation.” [Washingtonian, 10/3/17; ThinkProgress, 8/31/17]
Wash. Post: Gillespie’s ads used picture of a rival gang to portray MS-13. The Washington Post reported that one of Gillespie's ads used men who “were photographed in a prison in El Salvador” to portray MS-13 and that the men in the pictures “were not MS-13 members.” [The Washington Post, 9/28/17]
FactCheck.org: Gillespie’s ads “give the impression that Northam’s vote was the final word” on sanctuary cities in Virginia, even though it was current Gov. McAuliffe. As FactCheck.org explained, Gillespie’s ads “give the impression that Northam’s vote was the final word on a bill to prevent Virginia localities from adopting sanctuary policies,” even though “it was McAuliffe, the Democratic governor, who vetoed the bill, and Republicans didn’t have enough votes to overturn his decision.” [FactCheck.org, 9/26/17]