I’ve covered a lot of racist political ads.
In 1983, I watched bigoted white Democratic leaders in Chicago urge voters to reject black mayoral candidate Harold Washington “before it’s too late.” It didn’t work; he became the Second City’s first black mayor. In 1988 I was gobsmacked by Republican presidential candidate George H.W. Bush’s race-baiting Willie Horton spots. They did work; he became the U.S.’s 41st President.
But after careful consideration, I have to give the prize for the most shamelessly racist pitch to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The recently released video ad for his conservative political action committee, Watchdog PAC, makes even Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant sludge look nuanced.
If you haven’t seen it already, Corcoran’s ominously produced and voiced ad depicts a dark-skinned, undocumented immigrant in a hoodie gunning down a young white woman on a leafy white suburban sidewalk in broad white daylight.
That’s supposed to reference the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle, shot in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican felon, Jose Garcia, when his gun fired accidentally. (A jury acquitted Garcia of murder but convicted him for unlawful firearm possession.) But the ad wants you conclude that, well, this is just what undocumented Mexicans do here.
Corcoran issued the 30-second spot because he wants to run for governor this year. The Land O’ Lakes Republican thinks a law banning Florida from becoming a “sanctuary state” for undocumented immigrants will excite the xenophobic, right-wing base that helped Trump win the White House in 2016.
But coincidentally, Mexico is holding a presidential election this year. So, what if the sleaze sorcerers there released their own ads portraying Corcoran as one of the darkest (or whitest) threats to the safety of young people south of the border?
What if Mexican candidates scored points with their own nationalist bases by fingering Corcoran as Florida’s leading voice against a ban on assault weapons? Those include semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, which killed 17 people in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland two weeks ago – and have also killed tens of thousands in Mexico since the U.S. lifted its assault weapons ban 14 years ago.
Days after the Parkland massacre, Corcoran made sure the House quashed a bill to ban assault weapons in Florida. Corcoran instead champions the ludicrous idea that arming teachers – legislation that passed the House Appropriations Committee Tuesday – is the way to shield kids from the next psycho who slithers on campus with a military-style rifle designed not for hunting or home security but for annihilating human beings in war.
Which is what guns like the AR-15 are doing in Mexico – where their sale to civilians is banned – as they get smuggled from the U.S. into drug gangs’ hands. The U.S. Congress’ Government Accountability Office reported that in the first half of this decade, almost 75,000 guns seized in Mexico came from the U.S., many of them assault rifles. Mexico estimates 2,000 guns enter the country from the U.S. each day.
Murder in Mexico has jumped in tandem. At the beginning of this century, its annual homicide tally was actually declining – down 13 percent between 2000 and 2004, the year the U.S. assault weapons ban expired. But between 2004 and 2010 Mexico’s annual murder count exploded 176 percent.
The year 2010 also saw two of the country’s ghastliest massacres of innocent teens – 29 of them gunned down at parties in Ciudad Juárez by narco-thugs firing semi-automatic rifles. Atrocities like that are Mexico’s Parklands. Mexico’s Columbines.
What if Mexico’s presidential hopefuls aired spots blaming Corcoran for their country’s assault-weapon slaughter – just as blithely as his Watchdog PAC spot branded all undocumented immigrants as bloodthirsty bandidos?
What if they cast a white guy in a suit, tie and really sinister Florida sunglasses – the kind Al Pacino wore in Scarface – walking into a party in Mexico and gunning down young women with an AR-15?
What if the candidates' narration said, “I thought of my own daughter, and how this could happen to any Mexican family anywhere – thanks to Richard Corcoran.”
But they won’t, because they know how warped, dishonest, racist and wrong that would be. As wrong as Corcoran was.