Home 2019 Elections Gillespie Goes Desperate? Despicable “Willie Horton” Ad in Virginia Governor’s Race

Gillespie Goes Desperate? Despicable “Willie Horton” Ad in Virginia Governor’s Race


Enron Ed Gillespie, the Corporate lobbyist GOP political operative Republican candidate for Governor in Virginia, approved what is best thought of as a “Willie Horton” dog-whistle anti-immigrant ad.  Perhaps a desperation attempt as polling seems to show him consistently behind, this advertisement attacks Major Doctor Senator LtGov Volunteer Ralph Northam, the Democratic Party candidate, for supporting sanctuary cities and, following what is at best questionable logic, blames Northam’s support for sanctuary cities for Virginia’s MS-13 gang problem.

“A career political hatchet man, Ed is taking a page out of the Trump playbook: butchering the facts to try and frighten the voters,” Northam spokesman David Turner said.

Republicans run on ‘fear’ — they try to drive fear; they seek to exploit fear — which is exactly Gillespie’s angle here.  And, while seeking to secure a mantle of ‘moderate’ and ‘reasonable’, this is just another part of how his campaign is appealing to the foaming at the mouth Tea-Partyite core of Virginia’s Republican Party.

This ad is wrong in so many ways.  Besides being a fear-driving anti-immigrant piece, it misrepresents the basic situation.

Longtime Maryland gang outreach worker Luis Cardona, who oversees multiple prevention and intervention programs in Maryland, described the commercial as fear driven and based on a negative, false narrative.

“The fact remains that the majority of those individuals who have been arrested for gang-involved crimes are U.S. citizens. That has not changed,”

Indeed, at a recent Senate hearing focusing on MS-13 and its nexus to illegal immigration, arrest figures released by ICE officials showed that gang members are more likely to be U.S. citizens than undocumented immigrants.

Gangs (MS13 as a prominent example) are a serious issue that (can) creates serious threats and problems.  Serious threats (and how best to address (reduce/control/stop/…) them) — should be addressed seriously in policy proposals and political advertising. Gillespie’s ‘Willie Horton’ ad fails this test.

The ad is ‘wrong’ in a sort of amusing and revealing ways as well. The core photo:

  • isn’t of MS13 but of the Barrio 18/18th Street gang.
  • was taken in El Salvador, not  in or of Virginia.
  • is copyrighted and is used without permission.



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