Oz supporters’ attack ad on Fetterman is meant to suppress black votes
Supporters of Mehmet Oz – the Republican Senate candidate backed by Donald Trump in Pennsylvania – are going after Oz’s Democratic opponent, John Fetterman, with a new round of attack ads. The new spots, part of a $500,000 ad campaign by pro-Oz group American Leadership Action, slam Fetterman for a 2013 incident in which he pulled a gun on a black jogger and detained him afterwards. mistakenly believing he had committed a crime.
Unsurprisingly, the 30-second version of the commercial began airing on television networks with solid black audiences, such as Black Entertainment Television (BET), ESPN and Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). There’s also a 15-second version aimed at reaching people on their social media feeds and smartphones. It’s a desperate move in a race that could be crucial to keeping Democrats in check in the Senate.
Fetterman admitted his mistake but didn’t apologize as fully as some in the black community think.
This latest GOP strategy and the incident behind it highlights two things. The first is how deep Republicans will go to suppress black voters they don’t want to win. Second, the campaign underscores the fact that white people, Democratic politicians and would-be black community allies must own up to their mistakes and do better — and be better — after they transgress.
In January 2013, when Fetterman was mayor of the Pittsburgh-area steel town of Braddock, he reportedly heard gunshots near his home and claimed to have seen a man dressed in black and wearing a face mask running down the street. street. The mayor at the time claimed the man was running to an elementary school – this was weeks after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Fetterman said he chased the man in his van and held him with his 20-gauge shotgun until police arrived. This man, who was an unarmed jogger named Christopher Miyares, provided a very different account of the incident. He said Fetterman pointed the gun at his chest and he definitely knew he was black, which Fetterman denied.
Nonetheless, Miyares, now incarcerated for an unrelated offence, backs Fetterman in the Senate race. “Even with everything I’ve said, it’s inhumane to believe that a single mistake should define a man’s life,” Miyares said in a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer last year. “I hope he becomes a senator.”
Fetterman admitted his mistake but didn’t apologize as fully as some in the black community think. For example, he could have used the incident to highlight pervasive racial attitudes, perceptions, and stereotypes in society that endanger the lives of black people. Even white progressives, like Fetterman, who fight for criminal justice reform, voting rights, and the legalization of cannabis, are not immune to so-called implicit biases and unconscious cues that associate blackness to crime and violence. And not talking anymore may be the reason why he lost some black votes in Philadelphiawhere blacks make up more than 40% of the population, in the May primary.
As a Philadelphia voter who has worked on issues affecting black people – I was the director of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus in the state legislature over a decade ago – I remember the quote of James Carville: “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.” This quote resonates with me, although it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Philadelphia is two cities in one. Although it has suffered from a long legacy of racial segregation and current social stratification based on race, education, and geography, Philadelphia is an economically booming and gentrifying city. It has also been the poorest major US city in recent years, with about a quarter of its residents – disproportionately black and other people of color – living in poverty. Despite world-class hospitals in Philadelphia, residents of color suffer health disparities due to lack of access. And even with its many quality universities, only 28% of its residents aged 25 and over have earned a bachelor’s degree; Philadelphia is one of the worst cities for college achievement.
When voters see ads such as those referring to the 2013 Fetterman incident, we have to wonder what the GOP is offering or has offered its black voters.
Nothing the Republican Party has shown indicates that it is willing to deal with these crises in any meaningful way. So when voters see ads like the ones about the 2013 Fetterman incident, we have to wonder what the GOP is offering or has offered its black voters. To be very clear, it’s fair to criticize Fetterman for what he did, but we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking the GOP really cares about what the former mayor did to an unarmed black man or that the party is dedicated to getting black voters on its side.
After all, Pennsylvania has proven to be a national leader in hate and attempted insurrection. Nearly 70 people from Pennsylvania have been charged with involvement in the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. And last year, Keystone State ranked first in the nation for spreading white supremacist propaganda such as flyers, posters and graffiti, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Not to mention, we’ve seen how Trump foot soldiers, such as state GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano — who was recently seen posing in a 2013-2014 professor photo wearing a Confederate uniform — attempted to cancel the 2020 election. Mastriano plans to push for every Pennsylvania resident to re-register to vote, a move that has been criticized as a way to disenfranchise black voters in the future.
The tactic bears a strong resemblance to the GOP and Russian social media disinformation campaign of 2016.
And take the burning question of whether or not a woman has the fundamental right to make choices about her body. Republicans in the state legislature have signaled they want to push for anti-abortion laws, and Oz and Mastriano want to make abortion illegal in Pennsylvania. It’s a move that would exacerbate health inequities for women and lead to more black women dying from pregnancy-related complications. From 2013 to 2018, data shows that black women accounted for 43% of births in Philadelphia but 73% of maternal deaths.
Indeed, Oz and his Republican supporters don’t care about black voters unless there are efforts to keep them away from the polls come November.
The tactic bears a strong resemblance to the GOP and Russian social media disinformation campaign of 2016. The effort fueled black resentment toward Hillary Clinton in the presidential election over her 1996 comments calling young black people “super predators.” “. However valid the anger over his use of the word and the evil he perpetuated, the campaign was not used to empower black people but to dissuade them from voting.
In 2016, when Bill Clinton didn’t apologize for his wife’s comments or his 1996 crime bill that favored the mass incarceration of black people, Fetterman tweeted“True progressive leadership requires the honesty and humility to admit when you’ve made mistakes and work to fix them.” He went on to say, “It’s a hard truth that America’s ‘first black president’ actually enacted very destructive policies for African Americans.”
Like Democrats as a whole, Fetterman should heed his own words. Democrats need to build trust and show results rather than doing performative politics with empty promises, like congressional Democrats dressed in kente stoles during the George Floyd protests. After the dust settled, Democrats failed to implement the criminal justice reforms demanded by their base.
But that doesn’t negate the fact that Oz is a Trump-backed candidate who would be a black nightmare and that a Republican-controlled Senate would be a disaster. If black people do not show up to vote in the general election, we could face this reality. It is possible to call out Fetterman and demand that he do the right thing for black voters, but also recognize that he is the best candidate and vote for him out of self-interest.