Fred Trump, the late father of the president, formed an exploratory committee to run for New York City mayor in 1969. And as part of that short-lived campaign, he made a racist political ad that showed a drugged-out black man wandering the streets of crime-adled New York.
Or so says Sidney Blumenthal, the longtime Hillary Clinton pal who has earned the nickname “Grassy Knoll” because of his penchant for circulating conspiracy theories.
Blumenthal cited the failed Trump campaign and the ad in a 10,000 word article published in the London Review of Books this week.
But an investigation by The Daily Caller strongly suggests that the ad Blumenthal cited is a fake. It’s also not clear that Trump ever considered running for New York mayor.
The ad’s first posting online appears to come from a Youtube account that specializes in publishing “Found footage from alternate realities.” The account deleted the video after being contacted by TheDC.
The unaired ad began circulating on social media on Friday. Glenn Kessler, the fact-checker at The Washington Post, and Lloyd Grove, an editor at The Daily Beast, were some of the more prominent Twitter users to circulate the ad incredulously (Kessler deleted his tweet).
In his article, Blumenthal asserted that Fred Trump mounted a mayoral bid to unseat John Lindsay because the liberal Republican was blocking a Coney Island real estate deal that the mogul was backing. Trump’s strategy was to stoke racialized fear in New York’s white population, wrote Blumenthal, a former Bill Clinton White House aide.
He made two test television commercials. One of them, called ‘Dope Man’, featured a drug-addled black youth wandering the streets. ‘With four more years of John Lindsay,’ the narrator intoned, ‘he will be coming to your neighbourhood soon.’ The ad flashed to the anxious faces of two well-dressed white women. ‘Vote for Fred Trump. He’s for us.’ The other commercial, ‘Real New Yorkers’, showed scenes of ‘real’ people from across the city, all of them white. Fred Trump, the narrator said, ‘is a real New Yorker too’. In the end he didn’t run, but his campaign themes were bequeathed to his son.
But there’s no evidence that Trump ever made that ad. And as a New York Daily News reporter noted on Twitter in response to Mother Jones reporter David Corn, there’s also no evidence that Trump ever considered running for New York mayor.
The first posting of the “Dope Man” video appears to come from the Youtube account, Historical Paroxysm. The account’s other videos and its website tagline, “found footage from alternate realities,” suggests that the Trump video is a hoax.
Historical Paroxysm published the video on Oct. 11. In it, a man narrates as a young black man smoking marijuana is seen stumbling through the streets of New York.
The end of the video flashes the caption, “Paid for by the Committee to Elect Frederick C. Trump.”
An email sent to the website was not returned. But the video was removed by the account after TheDC’s email.
Several weeks after the first video was posted, a man named Jordan Siegel published it on his own Youtube account. He also posted it on the “Democrats” Reddit page.
That could have been where Blumenthal caught wind of it.
Adding further to the doubt about the veracity of the Trump ad is that the footage for the spot comes from a 1969 anti-drug documentary called “A Day in the Death of Donny B.”
The film was distributed by the National Institute of Mental Health to warn against the scourge of heroin. An archived version was released in 2007.
That film did not include the two white women that appear at the end of “Dope Man.”
The circulation of the video would not be the first item falsely accusing Fred Trump of racism to go viral online. During the campaign, a photo purporting to show Fred Trump and his wife wearing KKK robes in a photo with their son.
Blumenthal did not return TheDC’s email requesting comment, but the editorial department of the London Review of Books reached out this reporter after the message to the Clinton crony.
The paper says it will be running a correction on the article. It will state:
The original version of this piece contained two passages that require correction and clarification. At the time of the Roy Cohn leaks mentioned, the New York World Telegram was owned not by Hearst but by Scripps Howard. A paragraph referring to Fred Trump’s campaign for mayor of New York, although it accurately reflected Trump’s racial attitudes and his hostility towards Mayor John Lindsay, has been removed because the campaign ads referred to appear to be clever fakes.