Although the protesters in the original video appeared to be stopping a man from starting a riot, the ad took the clip out of context and portrayed the alleged instigator as the target of an attack. The distorted clip in the ad was shown as part of a montage which included a series of violent incidents and a hypothetical 911 call center sitting empty because police have been totally defunded.
Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel took to Twitter on Tuesday and brought attention to the ad in question. Weigel said the protesters in the original video were actually carrying the man to the police, suspecting he was attempting to instigate something.
Something I just noticed in the trump "Biden will defund the police" ad is that when the 9/11 voice says "… to report a murder," the image is of an Antifa guy being restrained by other protesters, who then handed him over to police. (That part isn't in the ad.) pic.twitter.com/pFhPN4GQCt
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) July 7, 2020
Although he first identified the man as Antifa, Weigel later responded to a Twitter user who questioned the statement and said the man's affiliation isn't actually confirmed.
"I should have said 'black bloc guy,' but the campaign is working to define 'antifa' as 'the dangerous guys' so I shorthanded it that way," the reporter wrote.
Fair, I should have said "black bloc guy," but the campaign is working to define "antifa" as "the dangerous guys" so I shorthanded it that way.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) July 7, 2020
According to The Intercept, the distorted clip in the ad was taken from a video recorded during a protest in Washington, D.C. on May 31. The original clip shows a group of protesters restraining a man who appeared to be carving out rocks from the pavement. As seen in the video, the group picked the man up and handed him over to the police.
Safvan Allahverdi originally recorded the video for a Turkish news publication and posted it to Twitter.
"Protesters in DC handed the white dude who was about to provocate the protest to the police," Allahverdi wrote. "He has been arrested and taken away."
Protestors in DC handed the white dude who was about to provocate the protest to the police.
— Safvan Allahverdi (@s_Allahverdi) May 31, 2020
Trump's ad goes on to depict a staged 911 call going unanswered as an example of what would happen if police were totally defunded, suggesting this would take place under a Biden administration.
"You have reached the 911 police emergency line. Due to defunding of the police department, we're sorry, but no one is here to take your call," the ad tells viewers. "If you're calling to report a rape, please press 1. To report a murder, press 2. To report a home invasion, press 3. For all other crimes, leave your name and number and someone will get back to you. Our estimated wait time is currently five days. Goodbye."
On-screen messages support the scenario, telling voters "Joe Biden's supporters are fighting to defund police departments," "violent crime has exploded" and "you won't be safe in Joe Biden's America."
Biden has explicitly stated he does not support the movement to defund police, and defunding does not mean the immediate abolition of police.
"No, I don't support defunding the police," Biden told CBS News. "I support conditioning federal aid to police, based on whether or not they meet certain basic standards of decency and honorableness. And, in fact, are able to demonstrate they can protect the community and everybody in the community."
In a statement to Factcheck.org, spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden is against defunding but supports police reform.
According to PolitiFact, the ad is also misleading because most advocates for defunding the police aren't asking for a police-free state where chaos is rampant.
"If police departments were to disappear, this scenario might be plausible," Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, told PolitiFact. "But short of that, police departments will continue to accept and respond to 911 calls."
A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday showed that most voters aren’t buying Trump’s extreme interpretation of defunding the police, Forbes reported. According to the poll, 77% of the participants in the study believe most activists only want to “change the way police operate,” while 18% believe the goal is to “get rid of police.”
The study found similar results among people who are most likely to support Trump, concluding that 67% of Republicans and 73% of non-college-educated white people believe defunding the police only means “change the way police operate.”