The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 7, 2012

The Root: 7 of history's most racist political ads

(Continued)

"Debbie Spend It Now," 2012

Somehow former Rep. Pete Hoekstra missed the memo that engaging in gross racial stereotypes can occasionally be perceived as ... well, racist to the group of people being stereotyped. This ad -- which some genius on his campaign staff thought was such a winner that it needed to be aired on Super Bowl Sunday -- engages in some of the most juvenile stereotypes out there about Asians. The ad did end up garnering Hoekstra attention -- but not the kind he was seeking. It was virtually universally denounced -- except by racists.

"Willie Horton," 1988

Though Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis already had an uphill climb in his race for president against then-Vice President George Bush, this notorious ad certainly didn't help matters. While the concept of the ad itself is not necessarily racist (it uses the story of convicted murderer Willie Horton to contrast the two candidates' differing positions on crime policy), the imagery used in the ad is akin to the kind a Klan recruiter might use. Horton doesn't just come across as a criminal, but the ultimate scary black man, and thus the embodiment of every negative stereotype some white Americans held about all black men and all black people.

"The Wave," 2010

Sharron Angle, the colorful Republican candidate who sought to oust Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid from the Senate, may not have won her race but she did win one distinction. MSNBC's Rachel Maddow declared Angle's campaign the most "overtly racist" of the 2010 election cycle. Angle owes this dubious honor in part to her campaign ad titled "The Wave," which left Latino groups outraged for its depiction of Hispanics crossing the border in "waves" to join "violent gangs." Think this ad couldn't be as offensive as it sounds? Just watch.

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