In the middle of a highly anticipated “Sunday Night Football” broadcast, NBC aired an immigration-themed advertisement, approved by President Donald Trump, that CNN publicly declared to be too racist to accept as a paid ad.
The 30-second prime-time ad stirred fear of a migrant caravan making its way through Mexico that is still hundreds of miles from the U.S. border. It tied Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican immigrant in the country illegally who was convicted of murdering two Sacramento sheriff’s deputies in 2014, to the thousands of migrants who are fleeing Central America, even though Bracamontes is not known to be associated with the caravan.
“Dangerous illegal criminals like cop killer Luis Bracamontes don’t care about our laws,” the ad said.
It was a shorter version of an ad that the president shared on Twitter last week, which falsely claimed about Bracamontes that Democrats “let him into our country” and “let him stay.” The network dedicated substantial editorial coverage to the longer ad, sometimes showing clips as anchors and chyrons declared it “racist.”
The 30-second version run by NBC did not include the false claim about Democrats, but it still drew a direct connection from immigrants to crime, a tactic the president has repeatedly used. (Many studies have shown immigrants do not drive an increase in crime.)
NBC’s decision to run the ad, paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, stood in stark contrast to CNN, which publicly responded when Donald Trump Jr. criticized the network for refusing to run it.
“CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist,” the network’s public relations account posted on Twitter. “When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined.”
NBC showed the ad during a marquee matchup between the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers.
NBC did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Debra Messing, an actress who plays Grace in NBC’s “Will and Grace,” protested the network’s decision in a tweet addressed to her show’s fans.
“I want you to know that I am ashamed that my network aired this disgusting racist ad,” she wrote. “It is the antithesis of everything I personally believe in, and what, I believe, our show is all about.”
To our @willandgrace fans—I want you to know that I am ashamed that my network aired this disgusting racist ad. It is the antithesis of everything I personally believe in, and what, I believe, our show is all about. @nbc pic.twitter.com/CLinZKHB47
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) November 5, 2018
Trump has used the specter of the caravan crossing the U.S. border as a central campaign theme, describing it as an “invasion of our country” to stoke anxieties about immigration. The military is deploying more than 5,000 active-duty troops to the border in preparation for the migrants’ expected arrival in the coming weeks.
The caravan was once said to have 7,000 people, but more recent estimates put the number at fewer than 3,500.