WASHINGTON (AP) — The video shows a Latino man in court, smiling menacingly. And his words are clear: He’s killed cops and he’s “gonna kill more cops soon.”
The man in the video, Luis Bracamontes, is an immigrant in the country illegally who was convicted this year of murdering two law enforcement officials. His image — complete with shaved head, long chin hair and accented English — is now the centerpiece of a video tweeted out by President Donald Trump as part of his closing argument on immigration less than a week before midterm elections that could alter the path of his presidency.
The expletive-filled video was immediately denounced by some Democrats and Republicans alike as racist. It comes amid a frenzy of hardline immigration proposals pushed out by Trump in the final stages of the campaign, including sending troops to the border and revoking birthright citizenship.
The video, which Trump tweeted late Wednesday, alleges without evidence that Democrats were responsible for allowing Bracamontes into the U.S.
Bracamontes, a twice-deported immigrant from Mexico, was sentenced to death in California for the 2014 killings. The 53-second spot includes expletives uttered by Bracamontes during his trial as he professed regret at not killing more officers.
“Illegal immigrant, Luis Bracamontes, killed our people!,” the video states, adding, “Democrats let him into our country … Democrats let him stay.” It includes scenes of a migrant caravan moving toward the U.S., warning ominously, “Who else would Democrats let in?”
The ad was reminiscent of the infamous “Willie Horton” ad used against Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988 and condemned as racist. Horton, who was black, raped a woman while out of prison on a weekend furlough. As Massachusetts governor, Dukakis supported the furlough program. Dukakis went on to lose to Republican George H.W. Bush.
The video tweeted by Trump did not immediately appear to be running on television, although it received extensive coverage on cable news networks. As of Thursday morning, it had received 2.65 million views in less than 24 hours and was the “pinned” tweet atop Trump’s profile, meaning it is the first thing any visitor to his Twitter page would see. Bracamontes was also featured in a January ad from the Trump campaign that received less attention.
The White House and the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to requests for comments as to who made or paid for the video or if any tax dollars were used to run it from the president’s account. It stood in stark contrast to an ad circulated by the Trump campaign earlier in the week that highlighted rosy economic numbers and depicted gauzy scenes of American suburban life.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called the new ad the “dog whistle of all dog whistles.”
“This is distracting, divisive Donald at his worst,” Perez said on CNN. “This is fearmongering.”
Al Cardenas, former head of the American Conservative Union, tweeted at Trump: “You are a despicable divider; the worse social poison to afflict our country in decades. This ad, and your full approval of it, will condemn you and your bigoted legacy forever in the annals of America’s history books.”
Lemire reported from New York.