In a new television ad -- his campaign’s first -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shows footage of dozens of people swarming over a border fence. But the footage isn’t as it seems.
About halfway through the ad, a narrator says of Trump, "He'll stop illegal immigration by building a wall on our southern border that Mexico will pay for." Video footage shows dozens of people streaming across the border, as if they were ants fleeing an anthill.
The clear suggestion is that the footage is of the "southern border" between the United States and Mexico. But it’s not -- it’s 5,000 miles away, in a small Spanish enclave on the mainland of Morocco.
PolitiFact was able to trace the footage back to the Italian television network RepubblicaTV. On May 3, 2014, the network posted footage of migrants crossing the border into Melilla, one of two enclaves on the Moroccan coast that are held by Spain. Migrants who cross the border there are essentially entering territory held by a European Union nation, even though they are still on the African continent. (It can also be seen posted by a YouTube user here.)
The RepubblicaTV video is time-stamped May 1, 2014. According to the description posted by the network (and using Google Translate) the video was released by the Interior Ministry in Madrid, showing an "onslaught of hundreds of migrants to the wall that separates the Spanish enclave of Melilla from Morocco. About 800 tried to cross the border on May 1st. Those who failed to escape the control of the Civil Guard were hanging on the barriers for six hours before being rejected."
The 2014 RepubblicaTV video resurfaced a year later, in a July 2015 YouTube post titled, "1,000s of immigrants try to cross the border at once." It makes no reference to the location.
By the time the footage made it into Trump’s ad, both RepubblicaTV’s logo and the 2014 time stamp were no longer visible.
Regardless of Trump’s imagery, the Pew Research Center noted last month that "for the first time since the 1940s, more immigrants from Mexico are leaving the U.S. than coming into the country. The shift is due to several reasons, including slow economic recovery after the Great Recession that may have made the U.S. less attractive, as well as stricter enforcement of U.S. immigration laws, particularly at the border."
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said she did not know the source of the video included in the ad and that she doesn't speak for the video production company.
Trump’s television ad purports to show Mexicans swarming over "our southern border." However, the footage used to support this point actually shows African migrants streaming over a border fence between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla, more than 5,000 miles away. We rate the claim Pants on Fire.
After the Fact
Trump campaign responds to TV ad showing Morocco, not Mexico: 'This was 1,000 percent on purpose'
Added on Jan. 4, 2016, 4:14 p.m.
After we published our fact-check, the Trump campaign released a statement to the media:
"The use of this footage was intentional and selected to demonstrate the severe impact of an open border and the very real threat Americans face if we do not immediately build a wall and stop illegal immigration. The biased mainstream media doesn't understand, but Americans who want to protect their jobs and families do."
NBC News reported that Trump campaign manager put it more colorfully: "Asked about the video, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told NBC News, ‘No sh-- it's not the Mexican border, but that's what our country is going to look like. This was 1,000 percent on purpose.’ "
The ad makes no such clarification, and we believe that most viewers -- in the context of the ad and Trump's past statements -- would conclude that it shows the U.S.-Mexico border, not a border in Africa. Our rating of Pants on Fire stands.