As the reality of the coronavirus crisis has established itself in the United States, Donald Trump’s Facebook campaign has remained focused on a different “crisis” – the alleged threat of immigrants entering the United States across the southern border.
Trump’s reelection campaign has made no mention of the coronavirus pandemic in his Facebook advertisements to date, although the epidemic has killed hundreds of Americans, infected tens of thousands and placed more than a third of the country’s population under ” stay-at-home “orders. Trump’s campaign has spent approximately $ 1.34 million in 18,982 ads that have been shown to Facebook users at least 58 million times since March 1, according to an analysis by the Guardian of Facebook’s political announcements archive.
The silence of the Trump campaign on the coronavirus on Facebook is at odds with Trump’s real life behavior. The president has tweeted uninterruptedly for weeks and recently held daily news conferences in the marathon press to discuss the pandemic and the administration’s response.
The construction of a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico was the most common political issue mentioned in those advertisements, followed by attacks on Democratic Party leaders and presidential candidates, as well as the media.
“They want open borders; they want crime, ”says Trump of the Democrats in a video that accompanies a typical immigration-based advertisement. On March 13 – the same day the global death toll exceeded 5,000 and Trump declared a national emergency – the campaign launched a tranche of advertisements stating “The Do-Nothing Democrats open border agency” it is morally reprehensible “and stating:” I have to put American security above all else. “
However, most (75%) of the 58 million ad impressions received from the Trump campaign announcements since March 1 went to announcements that did not mention any political issues, other than support for Trump. These include an offer for a “Trump Gold Card 2020 membership” for a $ 35 campaign donation; denies winning a hat or meal signed with Melania Trump; and various Trump campaign products, such as the “official space force”, the “OFFICIAL Trump Pence Keep America Great Dog Collar”, St Patrick-themed merchandise and plastic straws.
The campaign also released announcements designed to attract two electoral groups: African Americans and American Indians.
A series of announcements from the “Black Voices for Trump” campaign began on March 11th. The announcements include Diante Johnson, founder and president of the Black Conservative Federation, David J Harris Jr, a conservative black writer and podcaster, and Cecelia S Johnson offering a generic fundraising camp for Trump. The announcements also encourage supporters to subscribe to the campaign’s text messages by sending “WOKE” to the Trump campaign SMS number.
The attractive advertisement for American Indians began to appear in late February to coincide with Trump’s visit to India. They present photographs of the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, with messages such as:
“Thank you for all your contributions to our culture and traditions that they brought to the United States [sic]. Americans are eager to strengthen the ties between our two people. Our economy has never been better and the United States is eager to build a strong partnership with India. “
“American Indians are business titans, masters of the arts and innovate technology like few others. Your contributions have strengthened our culture and economy. I will always fight for YOU! “
These advertisements do not require donations, but instead link to a dedicated page on the Trump campaign website entitled Namaste Trump. The campaign’s investment in both election ad units was relatively low and in March they received less than 1% of the total impressions for all Trump campaign announcements.
Although Trump ignored the coronavirus epidemic in his Facebook campaigns, the Trump campaign sent an SMS message about the pandemic to his supporters on March 12. The text message included a link to a “Team Trump Coronavirus update” which read in part: “The safety, protection and health of the American people is President Trump’s top priority right now. With the help of Task Force of the White House, the Trump administration is conducting an aggressive and global effort to stop the spread of Coronavirus. “
The message also encouraged recipients to visit the coronavirus.gov website, although the hyperlink has been broken.