February 12, 2017
They’re well-produced, but they’re still “clever fakes.”
Many reporters were shocked this week after racially charged videos surfaced online purporting to be campaign ads created in 1969 for Fred Trump, the late father of President Trump.
This particular media feeding frenzy was set off by longtime Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal, who mentioned the videos in an essay published this week by the London Review of Books.
In 1969, Fred Trump plotted to run for mayor of New York … He made two test television commercials. One of them, called ‘Dope Man’, featured a drug-addled black youth wandering the streets. ‘With four more years of John Lindsay,’ the narrator intoned, ‘he will be coming to your neighborhood soon.’ The ad flashed to the anxious faces of two well-dressed white women. ‘Vote for Fred Trump. He’s for us.’
The other commercial, ‘Real New Yorkers’, showed scenes of ‘real’ people from across the city, all of them white. Fred Trump, the narrator said, ‘is a real New Yorker too’. In the end he didn’t run, but his campaign themes were bequeathed to his son.
Soon after Blumenthal’s essay appeared online this week, the videos he mentioned were widely shared on social media by reporters in various newsrooms. The Washington Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, was one of the first to circulate the videos on Twitter, and his note was shared by several of his colleagues.
There is only one problem with the supposed Trump ads mentioned by Blumenthal: They’re fakes.
Fred Trump never ran for mayor in New York City, and he never had ads made up for his supposed campaign. It’s all fake.
The videos in question were created and published online last year by a group called “Historical Paroxysm,” which specializes in producing “found footage from alternate realities.”
The footage used in the group’s “Dope Man” ad, which ends with a banner reading, “Paid for by the Committee to Elect Frederick C. Trump,” is from a 1969 short film called “A Day in the Death of Donny B,” according to the Post.
Also, as noted by Gizmodo’s Matt Novak, U.S. political campaigns started adding the “paid for” disclaimer at the end of ads only very recently.
After Historical Paroxysm’s fake Trump ads went viral this week thanks to reporters and Blumenthal, the art project group removed the videos from their YouTube and Vimeo accounts with no explanation, Politico noted.
Several reporters, including Kessler, have also issued mea culpas admitting they were fooled by what they thought were authentic campaign ads from the early 1970s.
The London Review of Books has since amended Blumenthal’s essay so that all mentions of the supposed Trump ads have been removed.
The following editor’s note has been attached to the Clinton’s confidant’s scribblings:
The original version of this piece contained two passages that require correction and clarification. … A paragraph referring to Fred Trump’s campaign for mayor of New York, although it accurately reflected Trump’s racial attitudes and his hostility towards Mayor John Lindsay, has been removed because the campaign ads referred to appear to be clever fakes.