LOUISVILLE, Ky. — While wearing a noose around his neck in a new campaign ad, Kentucky's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker calls out incumbent GOP Sen. Rand Paul for holding up an antilynching bill in 2020.
Booker said the ad, titled "Pain of Our Past," was tough to make, but he felt it was necessary.
"I speak this truth in a place of vulnerability, really, to shine a light on the struggles that we ignore," Booker said. "Not just lynching in the sense of a rope around a neck, but all of the efforts to block our healing, to block progress on justice and to make sure that everyone can live a gainful life free of the pain and hate and terror that we're seeing every day."
One of the claims made in the ad, which released Wednesday, is that Paul blocked a bill in 2020 that would have made lynching a federal hate crime.
The ad, however, failed to mention that Paul had proposed an amendment to that bill and, ultimately, co-sponsored the Emmitt Till Antilynching Act of 2022, which was signed into law by President Biden in March.
"As the record stands now, he is actually not against this bill but in favor of it," Dr. Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said.
Jack Cox, with Paul's campaign, reiterated on Wednesday that Paul worked to strengthen the language of the 2020 legislation.
"[Dr. Paul] is a co-sponsor of the bill that now ensures that federal law will define lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is," Cox said. "Any attempt to state otherwise is a desperate misrepresentation of the facts."
In addition to direct attacks against his opponent, Booker's ad was filled with symbolism. Before it ends, Booker, Kentucky's first Black Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, removed the noose around his neck.
"When I show that that rope can come off, that the pain that is holding us back and that Rand Paul is holding us back, we can beat that," Booker said. "It's a call for us to choose our future and choose Kentucky. To choose healing, and I know we will."
Clayton said he found the ad to be over the top since the images of lynching depicted in the ad can be misleading.
"It's got really good shock value, but it's a little misleading, to be honest with you, and it's somewhat outlandish," he said. "The images that he's showing are lynching when it was clearly defined as something."
The university professor said lynching today has a much broader definition.
"Today, it refers to, as I understand it, vigilantism or going after someone," Clayton said. "Not actually throwing a noose, or a rope, around a tree and literally hanging someone."
Even so, Clayton said he thinks the ad is already working in the Booker campaign's favor.
"It's gotten people's attention," he said. "A lot of times politicians like controversy because it's still getting their name out there."
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