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In the most expensive congressional race ever, outside groups are making a final push to move the needle in what’s expected to be a very close contest between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff in a suburban district north of Atlanta.
Great America Alliance, a pro-Trump organization, lofted a radio ad aimed at cutting African-American turnout for Ossoff. In the ad, black conservative Autry Pruitt warned African-Americans against being taken for granted by Democrats, using the words of the first black president to make his point.
Here’s the text:
"Hi, my name is Autry Pruitt, a fellow black American working hard every day, just like you. It may seem out of season, but all of a sudden, Democratic politicians have started coming around again. We normally only see them every other November, swarming around and making promises to get our vote. But nothing ever changes for us, does it? Here's what President Barack Obama had to say about it:"
Obama: "A plantation. Black people in the worst jobs. The worst housing. Police brutality rampant. But when the so-called black committeemen came around election time, we'd all line up and vote the straight Democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey."
"Let's not sell out for another Christmas turkey. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Democrats keep taking our votes for granted."
Did Obama really complain that Democratic politicians only pay attention to African-Americans when they need their votes?
The voice is Obama’s, but the words were not his. They came from Obama reading from his book Dreams From My Father about his first days in Chicago. He’s quoting a barber named Smitty talking about Chicago’s first black mayor, Harold Washington.
A sentence before the book excerpt that appeared in the radio ad gives those words a different meaning. Smitty explains Chicago politics to Obama, who told the barber he was not in Chicago for the election of Washington.
Here’s how the scene plays in the book:
"Had to be here before Harold to understand what he means to this city," Smitty said. "Before Harold, seemed like we’d always be second-class citizens."
"Plantation politics," the man with the newspaper said.
"That’s just what it was, too," Smitty said. "A plantation. Black people in the worst jobs. The worst housing. Police brutality rampant. But when the so-called black committeemen came around election time, we'd all line up and vote the straight Democratic ticket. Sell our souls for a Christmas turkey. White folks spitting in our faces, and we’d reward ‘em with the vote."
In the book, Obama went on to describe the power of African-Americans to shape their political destiny when they are unified.
"They had turned out in record numbers on election night, ministers and gang-bangers, young and old. And their faith had been rewarded," Obama wrote.
In Smitty’s words, "When I woke up the next morning, it seemed like the most beautiful day of my life."
In contrast to the suggested meaning in the ad, the passage is about the good things that come from voting.
Through a Great America Alliance spokesman, Pruitt rejected the idea that he had cited Obama out of context.
"The clip of President Obama was absolutely in context on this issue and helps make our point in the ad, which is why we used it," Pruitt said.
Great America Alliance said that Obama complained that Democrats continue to ignore blacks except at election time. Obama did say the words used in the ad, but they weren’t his.
He was quoting a Chicago barber talking about the days before African-Americans in Chicago helped elect the city’s first black mayor.
The full text from Obama’s book shows that he was arguing that voting can make a difference. Nothing in the section suggests that he thinks Democrats today only pay attention to blacks at election time.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Great America Alliance, radio ad, June 18, 2017
Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, 2004
Email interview, Brent Lowder, spokesman, Great America Alliance, June 19, 2017
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