A TV ad released Monday by Sen. David Vitter’s (R-LA) gubernatorial campaign claimed that his Democratic rival wants to free “dangerous thugs” from prison.
The ad attempted to tie state Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) to President Barack Obama’s criminal justice reform efforts. The ad’s narrator said that the President wanted to release 6,000 convicts from jail, citing The Washington Post, and claimed that Edwards recently pledged to release 5,500 Louisiana inmates.
“5,500 dangerous thugs, drug dealers back into our neighborhoods,” the ad’s narrator said.
However, a Washington Post report published on Oct. 6 actually said that the Justice Department was set to release 6,000 inmates “separate from an effort by President Obama to grant clemency to certain nonviolent drug offenders.” Obama’s effort led to the early release of 89 prisoners, according to the report.
The ad also appeared to reference remarks Edwards made in September at a historically black Louisiana college, according to The New Orleans Times-Picayune. Edwards told the newspaper that he never suggested releasing criminals from jail and called the ad a “smear.”
“I have never supported reducing our incarceration rate by releasing criminals from jail, as the smear ad suggests,” he said, as quoted by the Times-Picayune. “Rather, my statement about inmates in the speech referenced was about reducing the prison population through long-term solutions without harming public safety.”
One expert told the Times-Picayune that he thought the ad may have been racially motivated.
“It’s an ad to scare white people with black people,” Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, told the newspaper.
It was unclear how much money Vitter’s campaign spent on running the ad or how long it was expected to run.
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