Latinos accused of voter fraud feeling the Willie Horton Ill effect
On June 9, 1988, George H. W. Bush told his home crowd in Texas about an imprisoned convict named Willie Horton who left jail on a weekend pass and turned up years later having raped a woman after brutally assaulting her fiance. Bush Sr., running for president at the time, blamed his opponent Democrat Michael Dukakis who was governor of Massachusetts, the state where Horton was imprisoned for murder when he escaped. Bush seized on the Horton narrative throughout his campaign while his buddy Lee Atwater pledged to make Horton a “household name” by the end of the election. In the Fall of 1998, a Bush-supporting PAC picked up on the Horton meme and ran this ad:
The ad, and the Bush-Atwater practice of constant Horton invocation, has been deemed by scholars as a Republican strategy to prey on the worst racial fears of white voters by leading them to believe that under the Democrat Dukakis, African-American convicts would be given free reign to terrorize neighborhoods.
Jump twenty-four years later today, and we’re back in Texas under another presidential campaign where our sitting Democrat president shares the same race as Horton, and a Massachusetts governor is again running for president, this time a Republican named Mitt Romney. The current campaign also involved a politician from Texas, this one named Rick Perry, the state’s governor, who fizzled out after a series of embarrassments including the revelation of his family’s association with a hunting camp called “Niggerhead.” Finally, that terrible Willie Horton ad run above? It was produced back then by a PAC run by a man named Larry McCarthy. Today, McCarthy is in charge of a Super PAC called Restore Our Future, which is backing Romney to the tune of $17 million raised as of February, $15 million of which has been spent on ads produced by McCarthy’s media firm, as reported by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker.
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