Earlier this month, Republican Senate candidate John James released his first general election TV ad, which included the shocking, albeit brief cameo of a swastika.
“Look around you, blighted neighborhoods, failing schools, forgotten veterans, it’s disgraceful, and both parties are to blame,” the Michigan senatorial candidate said in a voiceover while the camera moves down an empty school hallway, the Nazi symbol conspicuously pinned to a bulletin board on the left.
Following social-media outcry over the brief glimpse of the Nazi image, James publicly apologized for the “terrible error” and took full responsibility for what he called a “mistake,” noting that the error got past both him and his campaign team.
“I need to fess up and admit this was a terrible error on our part,” James said during a news conference at his Detroit campaign headquarters. “We should have caught this error, and we didn’t, and there’s no excuse. I’m responsible for everything that our team does and fails to do, and I will do everything in my power to make sure this never, ever happens again.”
The military veteran held an impromptu press conference after his first and fiery debate against incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who is running for her fourth six-year term, when liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan brought attention to the appearance of the symbol historically associated with the rise of Nazism, and more recently, a reminder of the white-nationalist and neo-Nazi movements that have grown emboldened by the Trump era.
“As I said before, I love everyone and I denounce hatred and bigotry,” the GOP candidate said, adding the school video was “stock footage” with unknown origins. "It's my responsibility to stand and denounce hatred and bigotry and take responsibility for that error and omission.”
“His team was either too lazy to spot-check their ads or they’re willfully pushing out this type of imagery,” Lonnie Scott, Progress Michigan’s executive director told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “Either way, it’s a problem and shows James’ lack of preparedness for the United States Senate.” Stabenow’s campaign could not be immediately reached for comment.
James’ campaign manager Tori Sachs told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that the team acknowledged their mistake, but “doesn’t need to be lectured by a 43-year career politician on the history of evil.”
The spokeswoman added: “John James is the son of slaves, and his family has overcome racism. After John James raised twice as much as Stabenow in the last quarter, cut her lead in half to single digits and defeated her in two debates, Stabenow finally realizes she is in for the political fight of her life.”
The advertisement was “phased out nationally" on Tuesday and replaced with a new one focusing on the candidate’s father.
Never missing an opportunity to campaign, however, James ended his press conference by slamming his Democratic opponent and her allies who originally eyed the Swastika slip-up, saying that while he “loves everyone” there is “also indication that our message is working."
“This is also an indication of how low people are willing to go to take a message like this and to imply that a combat veteran, somebody who would put his life on the line for American values doesn't belong to one party or the other, but belongs to Americans,” he said, before adding that the backlash only proves his opponent will “say and do anything to get re-elected.”
And on Tuesday afternoon, James got a direct endorsement from President Trump, who tweeted, “WOW, John James is making headway in Michigan. We are bringing jobs back to the State, and the People of Michigan appreciate it. Debbie Stabenow has been no help, if anything, a major hindrance. John James is a star, I hope the voters see it. Polls are tightening!”