(Bloomberg) — Fox News, NBC and Facebook Inc. yanked a controversial political ad about the migrant caravan after critics described the commercial backed by President Donald Trump as racist.
The ad was pulled from Fox News on Sunday, according to Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales for the network. “It will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” she said in a statement on Monday.
The move is a striking rebuke of a commercial promoted directly by a U.S. president’s campaign. The ad focuses on the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico, saying it’s filled with “dangerous illegal criminals.” Fox News’ decision to yank the commercial signals an unusual break with the president, who promoted the ad on his Twitter feed last week.
Trump was asked Monday whether he thought the ad was offensive.
“A lot of things are offensive,” he told reporters before departing for a series of campaign rallies. “They certainly are effective.”
NBC and Facebook also said on Monday that they would no longer show the ad. It aired once on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” and three times on MSNBC, according to Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal.
“After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible,” NBCUniversal said in an email.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, slammed the decision to pull the commercial.
“So, @NBCNews @CNN @facebook have chosen to stand with those ILLEGALLY IN THIS COUNTRY. Instead of standing with LEGAL IMMIGRANTS and those that follow our laws,” he said on Twitter. Parscale didn’t mention Fox News.
“The #FakeNewsMedia and #PaloAltoMafia are trying to control what you see and how you think,” he said, an apparent reference to Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “STOP THE CARAVAN!”
NBC’s decision to run the ad in the first place was criticized on Twitter, most notably by Hollywood personalities like Judd Apatow and Debra Messing. CNN said Saturday it refused to show the commercial because its journalists deemed it racist.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “CNN refused to run this ad… I guess they only run fake news and won’t talk about real threats that don’t suit their agenda. Enjoy. Remember this on Tuesday. #vote #voterepublican”
The campaign spot focuses on Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented immigrant who was convicted of killing two sheriff’s deputies in California in 2014. The ad said Trump and his allies will protect the border and urges viewers to “vote Republican.”
Bracamontes last entered the country in the early 2000s, when George W. Bush was president, according to the Washington Post. And media coverage of the caravan, which has been traveling north from Honduras over the past month, has revealed its participants are men, women and children who are fleeing violence, poverty and political repression.
Many have compared the caravan commercial to the infamous Willie Horton ad during the 1988 presidential campaign that damaged the prospects of Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis.
Facebook said that the caravan commercial violated its polices against sensational content. Under its rules, ads must not contain shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content. This includes dehumanizing or denigrating entire groups of people and using frightening and exaggerated rumors of danger.
“This ad violates Facebook’s advertising policy against sensational content, so we are rejecting it,” the company said in statement. “While the video is allowed to be posted on Facebook, it cannot receive paid distribution.”