The photo shows a crowd of helmeted protesters, gathered around a downed police officer desperately clutching his nightstick. A caption below, written in ALL CAPS to maximize the effect, warns of “CHAOS & VIOLENCE.”
It is shock advertising at its most routine, designed to stoke fear and provoke a retreat to the safe and familiar. It popped up on Facebook on Tuesday and, as with so many whoppers of the Trump era, it’s also a lie.
This image that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign desperately wants you to believe is of anarchy in a “Democrat-run” U.S. city is … actually a photo from 2014 of a pro-democracy protest in Ukraine.
Jesse Lehrich, a former Hillary Clinton spokesperson, pointed out the misrepresentation on Twitter, noting that the Trump campaign seemingly downloaded the original file from Wikipedia, which clearly states it was taken in Kyiv, Ukraine, in 2014:
Photographer Mstyslav Chernov confirmed to HuffPost that he took the photo in Ukraine in 2014 but declined to comment further.
At the time, much of the country was rebelling against Kremlin-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. A Ukrainian court convicted Yanukovitch of treason in 2019 for fleeing the capital for Russia and urging Putin to invade the country to put him back in power. Incidentally, before he was Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, Paul Manafort worked for Yanukovitch from 2006 through 2015 and was paid tens of millions of dollars by the Ukrainian president.
Facebook’s ad library lists three “inactive” copies of the ad, all of which were taken offline after they started running yesterday.
The Trump campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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