The Joe Biden campaign is pushing ahead with a major swing-state ad blitz addressing the rioting that's gripped many U.S. cities head-on and blaming President Trump for the violence, casting the Democratic nominee as a calming force who will "lower the temperature" of the national discourse.
The ad is titled "Be Not Afraid," a quote from Pope John Paul II, and is adapted from a speech Biden gave Monday in Pittsburgh. It will air on major cable news networks as well as stations in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
"Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It's lawlessness, plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted," Biden says as stark images of burnt-out cars and buildings flash on the screen. "Fires are burning and we have a president who fans the flames. He can't stop the violence because for years he's fomented it."
The Biden campaign said the ad is part of a $45 million broadcast and digital ad buy just this week — a staggering sum of money for even a presidential campaign to drop. It comes as the Biden campaign has begun to emphasize its condemnations of rioting and violence in recent days after Republicans have hammered the message for weeks and harshly criticized the Biden campaign for the lack of attention paid to the unrest at the Democratic National Convention (DNC).
Trump allies have challenged the sincerity of the tone change by the Biden campaign. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has noted that the nominee has condemned the violence on several occasions throughout the summer, even to the point of backlash from some on the left.
Biden has certainly mentioned the rioting — perpetrated almost exclusively by far-left actors – far less on the virtual campaign trail than Trump, who has made it perhaps the top talking point of his campaign. But he has occasionally condemned the violence with statements as early as May 31 in the wake of George Floyd's death in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
“As predicted, Joe Biden today failed to condemn the left-wing mobs burning, looting, and terrorizing American cities," Trump campaign Communications Director Tim Murtaugh said in a statement Monday after Biden used a speech in Pittsburgh to denounce rioters and looters as well as accuse Trump of fueling the tensions. "He failed to apologize for his campaign staff donating to a fund which bailed violent criminals out of jail in Minneapolis."
Biden Rapid Response Director Andrew Bates shot back: "How can anyone take Trump seriously when he refuses to condemn someone who shot protestors on tape — killing two — and is currently in custody? There is one candidate for president who unequivocally condemns violence, and that candidate is Joe Biden."
The individual Bates was referring to is facing homicide charges for a shooting in Kenosha, Wis., though his lawyers maintain his actions were in self-defense.
Murtaugh in a tweet reacting to the ad buy said the tens of millions in spending by the Biden campaign are necessary because voters "have seen the weakness, seen him calling them 'peaceful protesters' while blaming police."
In a departure from many of its other ads, the new Biden spot on the riots does not mention the coronavirus pandemic. It could be a signal of more focus on the unrest from both campaigns down the stretch as many have noted Americans' revulsion to the looting, arson and other crime that takes place during the riots, which often happen at night stemming from protests against police brutality and racism.
"[Trump's] failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows how weak he is," Biden says in the ad, a reference to the individual facing homicide charges, whose self-defense claim Trump seemed to back this week, as well as caravans of Trump supporters, which Trump has encouraged, that have entered cities like Portland during riots. An apparent Trump supporter was shot over the weekend in Portland.
"If I were president my language would be less divisive," Biden says in closing the ad. "I'd be looking to lower the temperature in this country, not raise it. Donald Trump is determined to instill fear in America because Donald Trump adds fuel to every fire. This is not who we are. I believe we'll be guided by the words of Pope John Paul II, words drawn from the Scripture: Be not afraid."
Fox News' Allie Raffa contributed to this report.