WASHINGTON — An ad aired by the Donald Trump campaign in the lead-up to the US presidential election last month appears to bear striking resemblance to a spot released by a white nationalist group days earlier featuring overt anti-Semitic references.
Richard Spencer, the leading ideologue of the alt-right movement, said the ad released by the Trump campaign may have been inspired by one created by his National Policy Institute and released just a few days earlier.
“I thought it was a very powerful ad,” Spencer told The Times of Israel. “It reminds me of a video we actually made a few days earlier. I wonder if we inspired them.”
Spencer, recently videotaped “hailing” Trump while others made a Nazi salute, has become for many the most prominent figure from the so-called “alt-right” to emerge emboldened by Trump’s victory, amid a reported uptick in hate crimes against Jews and other minorities.
While the president-elect has disavowed Spencer and his NPI think tank, the final Trump campaign ad, released November 6, was criticized for carrying anti-Semitic overtones and implying a vast international Jewish conspiracy behind Hillary Clinton.
Five days before the release of Trump’s ad — titled “Donald Trump’s Argument for America” — Spencer’s NPI released a video eerily similar to the incoming president’s in content, tone, structure and style.
Both videos feature audio excerpts from an October speech Trump gave in West Palm Beach, Florida that was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for “rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews and still spur anti-Semitism.”
And both videos supplement those clips, which discuss the power of “global special interests,” with interspersed footage of prominent Jews.
Furthermore, each ad uses similar background music and other b-roll footage of people’s faces looking directly into the camera as it zooms in on them for dramatic effect.
Trump’s original speech was panned for its striking resemblance to the notorious 19th-century anti-Semitic tract “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which promulgated the conspiracy theory that a Jewish-run cabal of global financial elites controlled world affairs.
While each video uses different excerpts from the same Trump speech, both selections touch on similar themes and include the buzz phrase of “global special interests.”
The Spencer video
Spencer’s video, which NPI published on November 1, includes lines from Trump’s speech like: “This election will determine whether we are a free nation, or whether we have only the illusion of democracy, but are, in fact, controlled by a small handful of global special interests, rigging the system.”
Also included: “The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are very well known.”
As these lines are heard, various images are shown of prominent Jews, both Israeli and American, gathered with President Barack Obama or the Clintons.
Former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres is shown sitting with former US president George W. Bush and Jewish media-mogul Sheldon Adelson; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen walking at the White House with Obama and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.
There is also former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg posing for a photo-op with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg with Obama, billionaire Haim Saban with Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton at former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s 1995 funeral and the couple with Sumner Redstone, a Jewish billionaire who was once executive chairman of CBS.
This one minute and 21 second clip — titled “Donald Trump: Only the Beginning” — drew from other parts of his speech that suggested those who challenge power brokers control over the country will suffer a character assassination from the press.
“Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a ‘sexist,’ a ‘racist,’ ‘xenophobe,’ and morally deformed,” Trump says. “They will attack. They will slander you. They will seek to destroy your career and your family. They will seek to destroy everything about you including your reputation.”
These excerpts are juxtaposed with a myriad of online headlines from the mainstream media and other sources, including an ADL statement that criticized John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s controversial book “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.”
The Trump video
Trump’s video, which his campaign released on November 6, uses different but related passages from his West Palm Beach speech.
A recording of the speech is interwoven with images of philanthropist investor George Soros, Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, all of whom are Jewish and appear onscreen as Trump denounces “levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests.”
“The only thing that can stop this corrupt machine is you,” Trump says.
The video also shows the Clintons, President Obama, Congress, foreign leaders and the United Nations. All are juxtaposed with pictures of regular Americans, whom Trump urges to rise up.
The Trump team did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump and the alt-right
Throughout the campaign, Trump garnered the support of the so-called alt-right movement, an array of white supremacist groups, white nationalists and neo-Nazis. A recent ADL report found a dramatic spike in anti-Semitic harassment was carried out by self-identified alt-right Trump backers during the election season.
Spencer is credited with coining the term “alt-right.” He became internationally known when he was filmed on November 19 chanting “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” to cheers from an electrified audience, some of whom responded with Nazi salutes.
President-elect Trump recently caused wide angst among the Jewish community and beyond when he announced Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, would be his chief strategist in the White House.
As executive chairman of Breitbart News from 2012, Bannon pushed a nationalist agenda and turned the publication into what he himself called “the platform for the alt-right.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Trump defended the Bannon appointment and suggested his new hire was not associated with the movement.
“I’ve known Steve Bannon a long time,” he said. “If I thought he was a racist, or alt-right, or any of the things that we can, you know, the terms we can use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him.”
In that same interview, he was asked about the conference Spencer addressed. The incoming president said he didn’t want to “energize the group” and he disavowed them.
“It’s not a group I want to energize,” he said, “and if they are energized I want to look into it and find out why.”