News Update

Fact check: Deceptive Republican attack ad uses images from Trump presidency to depict 'chaos' under Biden

The 30-second ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee, titled “Chaos,” begins with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicting “bold progress for the people when we have President Joe Biden in the White House.” It then contrasts Pelosi’s words with a rapid-fire series of photos and videos depicting scenes of violence and tumult in the US and abroad.
Parts of that speedy montage, though, are highly misleading.
Facts First: At least three of the images in the Republican ad were actually taken in 2020, during the Trump administration, not during the Biden administration in 2021.
Axios reported that the National Republican Congressional Committee would spend less than $100,000 on the ad and that it would run for only one day on right-wing Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network. (The committee has also posted it on social media.) Still, Axios noted that the ad “sets the tone for the cycle” — Monday is one year out from the 2022 midterm Election Day — and the deception here is pretty egregious.
Nowhere does the ad offer any indication that the images from 2020 are not from Biden’s presidency.
The clip of the Molotov cocktail
At the 11-second mark, the ad shows a Molotov cocktail being thrown toward police officers. This footage is from rioting in Portland, Oregon, in September 2020, after a Kentucky grand jury decided to indict one of three officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor.
Videos of the Molotov cocktail incident were filmed by journalists Sergio Olmos and Pierce Singgih and posted online at the time.
The clip of the smoke and fireworks
Immediately after the clip of the Molotov cocktail incident, the ad shows red smoke rising from a street lined with cars as fireworks go off above. That clip is also from a night of Portland street clashes and also from 2020; an identical or near-identical video from what appears to be the same scene was filmed and posted on Twitter in July 2020 by journalist Justin Yau. (His caption: “Activists threw smoke grenades and fireworks to cover their advance.”)
The clip of the Black Lives Matter sign
At the 17-second mark, the ad shows flames rising around an elevated sign that reads “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” As Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel pointed out on Monday, this image is from Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August 2020, during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. (The sign belonged to a Unitarian Universalist church.)
Republicans would be free to point out in an ad that each of these three clips are from cities governed by Democratic mayors (though it would be fair for Democrats to respond that Trump was president). But this particular ad does something different — it tries to pin the scenes of urban chaos on the Biden administration. And that’s simply dishonest.
Asked for comment on the Republicans’ use of Trump-era images in the ad, White House spokesman Mike Gwin used the opportunity to take a jab at the former President.
“We want to thank House Republicans for highlighting the mess President Biden inherited from his predecessor,” Gwin said in an email. He went on to tout Biden accomplishments on job creation, major infrastructure legislation and Covid-19 vaccinations.

Republican committee is unapologetic

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, Mike Berg, would not tell CNN on Monday which images from the ad were from 2020 and which were from 2021. After Weigel of the Post noted that the image of the “BLACK LIVES MATTER” sign was from 2020, CNN independently confirmed the 2020 context for the images of the Molotov cocktail toss and the smoke-and-fireworks scene.
Berg was unapologetic about the ad’s use of images from 2020. In Twitter messages to CNN, he defended the ad by claiming that Democrats “actively supported and encouraged the riots in 2020” and that Biden in particular “actively encouraged the protests.”
But Biden never supported rioting. As CNN repeatedly wrote in 2020, when Trump made similar claims during the presidential campaign, Biden endorsed peaceful protests while condemning property destruction, looting and violence.
Regardless, Berg’s claim is beside the point. Whatever Biden said before he took office, the ad strongly and inaccurately suggests that it is depicting things that have occurred during his time in the White House.
The ad both begins and ends with a clip of Pelosi talking about a Biden presidency; the concluding clip is Pelosi predicting that Biden “will be an extraordinary president.” In addition, the ad features complaints about Biden-era inflation and various images that were indeed taken during the Biden presidency, such as shots of migrants in the border region and a shot of a dead body the Taliban publicly displayed from a crane after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It’s clearly deceptive to throw sensational images from the Trump days into this mix.
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