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Ad with darkened skin for Black opponent is 'fake controversy,' Lindsey Graham's camp says

The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.) — By Bailey Aldridge The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

July 29-- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has received pushback over an advertisement showing his Black opponent with a darkened skin tone-but his campaign called the controversy "fake."

The advertisement was posted to the South Carolina Republican's Facebook page last week and features a photo of Jaime Harrison in a dark background with noticeably darker skin along with a photo of actress Kathy Griffin and the words, "Who's helping Harrison? 'Get Lindsay (sic) outta there.' Go Jaime."

It uses a photo of Harrison-Graham's Democratic challenger for the November U.S. Senate election-that was originally published in The New York Times in May, according to CNN, which first reported on the advertisement.

Harrison tweeted out the CNN report Wednesday, calling the advertisement "the oldest trick in the book."

"South Carolinians are sick and hurting right now, let's keep our eye on the ball and fight for them," he tweeted. "It's time for Lindsey Graham to wake up to the New South: bold, inclusive and diverse."

JA Moore, a state representative and Harrison campaign surrogate, told CNN the advertisement is the "kind of dog-whistle politics that the Republican Party has been practicing for a number of years now."

Exacerbating racial biases in advertisements is often referred to as "dog-whistle politics" and is hardly a new tactic.

In 2008, a study found, negative ads targeting then-candidate Barack Obama "depicted him with very dark skin"-appealing to some voters' racial biases, which overwhelming evidence shows are stronger against Black people with darker skin, The Washington Post reported.

"Lindsey Graham is playing a part in a 400-year history of an Old South that had no room for people who looked like me," Harrison said in an emailed statement.

Guy King, campaign spokesperson, echoed Harrison's comments.

"It's disrespectful for Lindsey Graham to resort to such desperate measures and shows just how scared he is from our grassroots movement," King said in the statement. "Lindsey Graham needs to remove the ad and donate the money to an organization that fights against bigotry."

But Graham's campaign says the response to the "artistic effect" is "fake controversy."

"It's sad that our opponent has made up fake accusations about a graphic-one intended to highlight Jaime Harrison's support from Kathy Griffin, a liberal actress who once posed with a fake severed head of Donald Trump," T.W. Arrighi, Graham campaign communications director, said in an emailed statement to McClatchy.

Griffin, a comedian, was "blacklisted" and fired from CNN after posting a photo of herself in 2017 in which she held up a Donald Trump mask made to look like a severed head, NPR reports.

The advertisement references a tweet from her responding to a report from The Post and Courier about Harrison hitting a fundraising record.

"Hollywood continues to bankroll my opponent, raising tens of thousands in campaign cash to attack me-but they fail to understand this simple fact: South Carolinians won't stand for Radical Leftists telling them how to think and how to vote," Graham's account posted on Facebook along with the advertisement.

In a statement, Harrison's campaign called the ad an attempt to tie Harrison to Griffin "who is visibly of a lighter skin complexion, and 'radical leftists' in order for Sen. Graham to catch up to Harrison's grassroots fundraising momentum."

Harrison has broken fundraising records for Democrats running statewide in South Carolina, The State reports. His campaign says he raised nearly $14 million during the second quarter of the year.

Small donors have driven Harrison's fundraising, The State reported in October, but he's also received "sizable donations" from members of Hollywood and out-of-state donors-at which Graham has continued to take aim.

South Carolina is a solidly red state. Jimmy Carter was the last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state, according to Ballotpedia, and in 2016, Trump won the state with 54.9% of the vote.

In 2014, Graham, who is in his third six-year term, won 55.3% of the vote over Democratic challenger Brad Hutto.


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