6 of the Worst Campaign Ads This Election Cycle

Outing survivors of sexual assault, warning that Democrats "will be lynching black folk again," and other stupid campaign-ad tricks.


YouTube screenshot/Duncan Hunter

As the midterm races heat up, many politicians and their supporters feel ready to do whatever it takes to win. And what it takes to win, they apparently think, is some really terrible campaign ads. Here are six of the worst:

1. If the Democrat wins, black people will be lynched: A radio ad supporting Rep. French Hill (R–Ark.) suggests that "white Democrats will be lynching black folk again" if Hill is defeated by his Democratic opponent, Clarke Tucker.

I'm not kidding—that's a direct quote from the ad. One woman talks about the allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The other replies: "We can't afford to let white Democrats take us back to bad old days of race verdicts, life sentences, and lynchings when a white girl screams rape." Here's the ad in full:

Hill, who represents Arkansas's 2nd Congressional District, was not responsible for the radio spot. It was paid for by Black Americans for the President's Agenda, a political action committee founded by Vernon Robinson. When Hill heard about it, he put out a statement condemning "this outrageous ad in the strongest terms."

2. Sexual assault survivors get outed: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D–N.D.) is running for reelection against a Republican challenger, Kevin Cramer. Cramer had suggested that Kavanaugh should be confirmed even if the assault allegations were true, so the Heitkamp campaign released an open letter to him from survivors of sexual assault, which it then published in a local newspaper as a campaign ad.

The open letter named 127 women, many of whom, it turns out, had not consented to having their names published. The ad was a "revictimization of victims," Cramer told the Associated Press. Following a significant backlash, Heitkamp acknowledged the "horrible" mistake.

3. A Palestinian-American Christian is a "security risk": Rep. Duncan Hunter (R–Calif.), who's been indicted by the Justice Department for allegedly misusing $250,000 worth of campaign funds, thinks his Democratic challenger is trying to "infiltrate Congress."

A 30-second ad from Hunter's campaign notes that Ammar Campa-Najjar has changed his name several times "to hide his family's ties to terrorism." Campa-Najjar's grandfather, the ad says, "masterminded" a Palestinian terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics. His father allegedly claimed the victims "deserved to die."

Campa-Najjar, who has a Palestinian father and a Mexican-American mother, admits he's changed his name, though his campaign says it has nothing to do with his family's terrorist ties. While the candidate's grandfather was likely involved in the Munich attack, Campa-Najjar was born years after his death. Campa-Najjar is also estranged from his father. Plus, he's a Christian, not a Muslim.

4. Is my opponent a sexual predator? Corey Stewart, the Republican challenging Sen. Tim Kaine (D–Va.), aired an ad earlier this month strongly suggesting without evidence that Kaine is a "sexual predator." The ad alluded to the fact that since 1990, Congress has paid out more than $17 million in settlements over violations of workplace rules, including sexual harassment.

"While Tim Kaine and the Democrats falsely accuse Judge Kavanaugh over high school rumors, they won't tell us which of the senators are sexual predators," Stewart says. "Why not, Sen. Kaine? What are you hiding? Are you on that list?"

There's absolutely no evidence tying Kaine to sexual harassment. And it was in large part thanks to Kaine that those settlements became public knowledge in the first place, according to the Washington Post.

5. Watch this clip of my opponent making great points: Sen. Ted Cruz (R–Texas) might have actually helped Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D–Texas) by sharing a video of his Democratic challenger talking about holding police officers accountable.

"In Beto O'Rourke's own words," Cruz wrote. He attached a video of O'Rourke speaking last month at a Dallas church about Botham Jean, a black man shot in his own home by an off-duty cop who claims she mistook his residence for her own. After the shooting, Dallas Police searched Jean's home for "narcotics" and found a small amount of weed.

"How can that be just in this country?" O'Rourke asked, referring to Jean's death and the police's immediate actions thereafter. "How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change."

O'Rourke was making some good points! According to Cruz, though, the candidate was showing that "over and over again…he sides against police."

6. A really, really bad Top Gun spoof: This one is actually from the primaries, but it's so bad I needed to dredge it up again. Dan Helmer wanted to challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock (R–Va.). He finished fourth in the Democratic primary, but not before releasing this doozy of a campaign ad back in September 2017. It's a spoof of a famous scene from the 1986 Tom Cruise flick Top Gun, and…oh, just watch it:

It may not be the worst of the six, but it just might be the most cringeworthy.

This post originally stated that the terror attack at the Munich Olympics occurred in 1872, when in fact it took place in 1972.