A top White House aide tried to distance the administration from an incendiary new online ad that says Democrats are culpable for murder if they refuse to support the administration’s immigration proposals ― even though the ad came from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
The campaign released the ad as the government shutdown began on Saturday. Touting Trump’s immigration policies ― including construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border ― the video says, “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.”
Funding for the wall and the status of more than 700,000 undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children have been key sticking points in negotiations that stalled and led to the shutdown.
Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, tried to distance the White House from the ad, telling Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet The Press” that it was produced by an “outside group” and not anyone in the White House ― even though that group is the president’s own campaign.
But when Todd pressed him on whether the ad was helpful in terms of negotiating a funding deal with Democrats, Short defended it.
“I think it’s helpful to continue to raise awareness of the crisis we have,” Short said.
Asked whether he found the tone helpful, Short said “the data in the ad shows that there are people coming across our border that pose threats to our country, yes.”
The ad features Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin and says “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants.
Several studies have disputed the suggestion undocumented immigrants bring more crime into the country.
Republican lawmakers lightly criticized the ad on Sunday. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in on the ad on CBS’s “Face The Nation,” saying, “I don’t know if [it’s] necessarily productive.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told HuffPost that the ad was “over the top,” while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said it “wasn’t helpful.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday further defended the ad as “absolutely appropriate” and dismissed suggestions that it would make negotiations more difficult by blaming Democrats.
“We cannot protect this country if we don’t secure our border. That’s the point the president is trying to make,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
This article has been updated with additional comments from lawmakers and the White House.