The Slatest

Is Donald Trump’s Closing Campaign Ad Anti-Semitic?

Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the South Florida Fair Expo Center on Oct. 13, 2016, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump has released what seems like the closing-argument ad of his campaign, and several people are pointing out that the whole thing has rather troubling anti-Semitic overtones by at the very least implying that it’s prominent Jews who control the “levers of power.”

The two-minute–long ad uses audio from a speech Trump gave last month in West Palm Beach that was harshly criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for “rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur antisemitism.” The speech is interspersed with photos of powerful people. Besides Hillary and Bill Clinton and President Obama, the other three readily identifiable people in the video are all Jews: financier George Soros, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

“The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election,” the Republican presidential candidate warns in the video. “For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.”

The Huffington Post’s Daniel Marans explains what is troubling about the images that are mixed in with Trump’s words:

Splicing the remarks together with images of Soros and Yellen, however, heightens this antisemitic effect. The combined use of the troubling rhetoric and images of those individuals resembles more explicitly antisemitic narratives throughout modern history. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a late 19th-century publication likely commissioned by the Tsarist Russian government, helped spread the conspiracy theory that a Jewish-run cabal of global financial elites dictated world affairs. Some version of this theory continues to inspire antisemites.

Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo also agrees the ad is anti-Semitic, writing that “I’m not even sure whether it makes sense to call them dog whistles” because there is absolutely nothing subtle about the ad. Marshall explains:

This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms ‘white hands’ ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it’s more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it’s not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas. That’s the only standard that really matters.

This is intentional and by design. It is no accident.

It is hardly the first time Trump’s campaign has been accused of espousing anti-Jewish rhetoric. Remember the time when Trump tweeted a picture of Clinton on top of a pile of cash and a six-pointed star? (It was quickly deleted and the star was replaced by a circle).

The Anti-Defamation League also criticized the ad. “Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This needs to stop. In the final days before the election, tensions are extremely high. It’s a time when all candidates need to be especially responsible and bid for votes by offering sincere ideas and policy proposals, not by conjuring painful stereotypes and baseless conspiracy theories.”

So, all in all, a marvelous way to end a stupendous presidential campaign.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.