A campaign mail piece sent primarily to African-American voters features photos of President Donald Trump alongside members of the Ku Klux Klan — and it’s not the first time that the groups listed as the flyer’s sponsors have used the tactic.
The flyer, which was shown to Birmingham Watch by the staff of Gov. Key Ivey’s campaign, is emblazoned with “Vote or Die” on one side and “Hate Crimes Are On The Rise” on the other, along with images of Trump superimposed on a Confederate battle flag and images of Klan members. Under that image, the flyer reads, “Governor Ivey, Attorney General Steve Marshall and Republican Legislators are strong supporters of Trump’s plan to ‘Make America White Again.’”
An Ivey campaign spokesperson said they were given copies of the flyer by Ivey supporters in Hoover and Vestavia Hills.
A statement along the bottom of the flyer says that the message was sponsored by Vote or Die, SOS Movement for Justice & Democracy and the Alabama New South Coalition. Representatives of those groups did not return calls.
The three groups have ties to state Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, who has a history of mailing racially charged flyers targeting African-American voters; Sanders founded the ANSC and is a past president. The same groups sent similar flyers during the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 special U.S. Senate election between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, the eventual winner. All three flyers shared the same themes and graphic devices.
The flyers were first reported by Yellowhammer News, a conservative news website founded by Cliff Sims, who sold the site to take a position in the Trump Administration; he has since left that position. Additionally, the flyers were reported by Breitbart News, the conservative-news website run by Steve Bannon, who also worked in Trump’s campaign and White House for a time.
The ANSC did not list the costs associated with the printing and mailing of the flyer in its online campaign finance reports; the state website does not show financial reports filed since 2013.
Sanders’ groups aren’t the only ones that have sent material with racial overtones to prospective voters in recent elections. Another flyer, which featured a photo of an African-American man under the headline, “Think if a black man went after high school girls anyone would try to make him a senator?” was mailed before the special Senate election in December. While most flyers of this nature are produced by independent political groups, this one was Doug Jones for Senate Committee. That flyer was reported by both Breitbart and The Root, an online magazine geared toward African-Americans owned by Univision Communications.
Jones confirmed in an interview on Sirius XM satellite radio that the campaign did send the mailers. “That mailer kind of speaks for itself. You know, maybe we could’ve used a little bit different language,” he said to host Joe Madison.
Indeed, campaign materials with racial overtones have been a part of state politics for years, according to Dr. Wayne Flynt, a professor emeritus at Auburn University widely known for his research and writings on the history of Alabama.
In the days before Photoshop made it relatively easy to create misleading images, the same tactic was used in cruder ways against Gov. Albert Brewer, who was seeking election in the 1970s after having assumed the governorship upon the death of Gov. Lurleen Wallace. Brewer was running against her husband, then-segregationist and former Gov. George Wallace, in the Democratic primary. Unlike George Wallace, Brewer had actively sought support from African-American voters.
“There were doctored photographs of Brewer’s daughters wearing bathing suits while they were down in Gulf Shores, and they were surrounded by a group of blacks,” Flynt said. “Doctored photographs by white supremacists, the Klan and — if this one (the Trump/Klan flyer)] is true — by black groups is certainly not new in Alabama.”
The Ivey campaign found out about the latest flyers in early October.