Michael Bloomberg hopes that voters’s lack of media literacy will convince them that his presidential run has Barack Obama’s blessing.
On Monday, Bloomberg released a new commercial featuring old clips of Obama praising Bloomberg as a leader, paired with voiceovers touting the two as partners in combating gun violence and improving childhood education. The commercial is edited as if Obama has endorsed the former New York City mayor in his recent presidential bid. While the clips and photos of the two include dates in the lower left-hand corner—ranging from 2008 to 2016 and indicating the accolades are not recent, the ads seem to be misleading to less eagle-eyed viewers.
Perhaps more egregious are the accompanying radio ads, which feature the same audio without the visual reminders that Obama’s glowing Bloomberg commentary is years old.
It’s already causing some mild chaos. A search of “Obama endorse Bloomberg” on Twitter produces the following results: One, journalists, pundits, and media personalities like MSNBC political analyst Zerlina Maxwell who are frustrated by the misleading ads and feel obligated to set the record straight; two, people who are commiserating over the fact that their parents were conned into thinking that Obama endorsed Bloomberg; three, people who are convinced that Obama endorsed Bloomberg and are absolutely enraged.
This is the second Bloomberg ad this month that ties Bloomberg to Obama, who remains a very popular figure in the Democratic Party. Bloomberg isn’t the only candidate to invoke Obama in a campaign ad. Former Vice President Joe Biden touted his relationship with Obama in ads of his own, and Elizabeth Warren incorporated Obama’s glowing words in a recent ad. But neither could be confused as an endorsement. And their ads do not attempt to rewrite history in quite the same way as Bloomberg’s, whose opinion of Obama was often negative.
Bloomberg did not endorse a presidential candidate in 2008, and, despite critiquing Obama as a divisive figure who spearheaded a “disgraceful” healthcare plan did not dedicate enough time shilling to centrists, he endorsed Obama a few days before the 2012 presidential election, citing the then president’s dedication to climate change, which he believed contributed to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. But this modicum of goodwill did not stop him from blaming Obama for America’s racial divisions in 2016.
Bloomberg is counting on Americans’ short memories and his virtual blank slate outside of the New York tri-state area to forge a new identity, not as an advocate of stop-and-frisk, corporate sex pest, or longtime supporter and financier of Republicans, but as an ally to black entrepreneurs and climate change activists. And with enough money to throw around at politicians and media companies alike, both seem satisfied to play along with this story he continues to spin in his favor.
The actual impact of these ads may have had on Bloomberg’s growing poll numbers is unclear, but if desperate Democrats will buy the narrative that Bloomberg is uniquely qualified to defeat President Trump—despite his Trumpian history of overt racism and sexism—then pushing Bloomberg and Obama as bosom buddies during the Obama years should be an easy enough task.