President Donald Trump addressed an incendiary campaign video for the first time Friday, defending his move to tweet the ad as “just telling the truth.”
“They gave me a hard time because I put it up on Twitter and they gave a hard time,” Trump told a crowd in Huntington, West Virginia. “They said, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that! That’s not nice!’”
“And I say, all I’m doing is just telling the truth, what can I say,” he added.
The video, tweeted by Trump on Wednesday afternoon, shows a Hispanic man bragging about killing police officers during a courtroom appearance and says Democrats want to allow more people like him into the country.
Commentators have called the ad racist and likened it to the Willie Horton ad in the 1988 campaign. That ad was backed by supporters of George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign. It depicted Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis as responsible for the rape Horton, a convicted murderer, committed while out of prison while furloughed under a Massachusetts program. The ad was seen as playing into white fear and racist stereotypes of African-Americans.
Decrying the migrant caravan, Trump suggested an interview in the ad occurred this week and that the person depicted was in the current caravan coming toward the United States.
“I don’t know if you saw the one, they interviewed him yesterday,” Trump said. “And he was asking for a pardon and didn’t speak English. And the nice young I guess reporter was asking, “Oh, you want a pardon?”
“And what was it for?” Trump asked the crowd. “And essentially it was for murder, and he’s in the caravan.”
“You look at him, he looked nice, he looked nice,” Trump added. “No, no – murder, right. You saw that, good. I hope you saw that.”