President Donald Trump used football’s biggest night to paint himself as a champion for criminal justice reform in a cringe-worthy campaign ad that left folks fuming.
The 30-second clip aired during Super Bowl LIV Sunday night and credited the president’s criminal justice reform efforts for reuniting families. In the video, Alice Marie Johnson, a Black grandmother serving life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense before Trump commuted her sentence last year, spoke of how her “heart is just bursting with gratitude.”
“I’m free to hug my family,” Johnson, 64, says in video of her being loved on by relatives following her release. “I’m free to start over. This is the greatest day of my life.”
“I wanna thank President Donald John Trump,” she adds before letting out a hearty “Hallelujah!”
Backlash over the ad was swift with critics slamming it as a shameless piece of propaganda aimed at pandering to Black voters ahead of the anticipated 2020 presidential election.
“I can’t stop thinking about the fact that Trump bought a Super Bowl ad to cast himself as the champion of black women prisoners,” journalist Laura Bassett tweeted, adding: “It’s mind boggling.”
Political podcaster Erin Ryan smeared the ad as “the troll-iest and most predictably opposite-true possible Trump ad.”
Others noted the hypocrisy of it all, pointing to Trump’s vitriol against Black athletes like Colin Kaepernick for bringing politics into football with their on-field protests against racism and police brutality.
Another critic opined: “The party that told Colin Kaepernick not to kneel and not to politicize football just paid over 5 million dollars for a 20 second Trump ad exploiting black people for votes.”
The president bragged on himself last year when he signed his landmark criminal justice reform bill, the First Step Act, into law. The bill was a bipartisan effort aimed at improving public safety and affording second chances to those found guilty of nonviolent crimes, including low-level drug offenses.
Johnson was one of those people — mainly thanks to the efforts of Kim Kardashian West and others who advocated for her release.
Critics haven’t forgotten the fact that Trump, 73, has spent the bulk of his time in office pushing law–and–order policies that actually call for harsher policing.
Former Washington Post correspondent Wesley Lowery also cited a recent investigation pointing to efforts by Trump’s own Justice Department to “lock back up the people” freed under the First Step Act.
Outrage over Trump’s commercial simmered on into the night with many like former Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-SC) skewering the president over his “I freed a Negro ad.” However, some were convinced the ad wasn’t just meant to grab Black America’s attention.
“Y’all, the Trump as wasn’t to win African-American voters,” someone tweeted. “It was to give cover to white voters. ‘See? We are letting Black folks out of jail!’ It’s the advertising equivalent of ‘I have a Black friend.’ “
Filmmaker Bree Newsome Bass agreed, adding: “Folks are shocked there’s pro-Trump ads and cop-ganda? Have folks not been following events of the last three years, when Trump told the NFL to “get that son of a bitch off the field’ for protesting racism and they did?
“This is all about telling us negroes to stay in line,” she added.
Watch more in the video below.