The Slatest

The Small American Business in a Trump Campaign Ad Is Actually in Tokyo

Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign has been running an ad on Google since mid-June about the president’s dedication to faith in America. The ad features Trump proclaiming, “In America, we don’t worship government. We worship God,” over footage of Washington, D.C. The ad then narrows in on footage of what looks to be the outside of a café in the city. There’s then a shot of the interior of the building with a barista named Thomas talking about how he prays for Trump and his family.

The only problem is that the shot of the small American business is actually stock footage from iStock of a storefront in Tokyo.

Footage from Trump campaign ad.
Storefront used by Trump campaign ad. Photo illustration by Slate. Screen grab from iStock.

If you look in the upper-left-hand corner of the campaign ad’s footage, you can see that a sign written in kanji appears to have been blurred out. The ad does disclose for two seconds at the bottom that the barista is an actor, though the testimonial from the supporter is real.

Footage in Trump campaign ad.
Footage in Trump campaign ad. Photo illustration by Slate. Screen grab from Trump campaign.

We reached out to the Trump campaign for comment and will update this story if it gets back to us.

As Slate’s Seth Stevenson has noted, this isn’t the first time that a campaign has used stock footage of a foreign country to depict America. During the 2016 campaign, an ad for Sen. Marco Rubio promising “Morning Again in America” contained footage of a harbor in Vancouver, British Columbia. An ad for Sen. Rand Paul purportedly showing everyday Americans used photos of Germans. And the 2016 Trump campaign used footage of a Spanish enclave in Morocco in an ad about America’s border. Stevenson wrote that the problem often comes up because campaigns need an immense amount of fresh stock footage for ads.