The return of Willie Horton

The adman responsible for the notorious spot is raising money for negative ads aimed at Barack Obama; the first has already been shown to be inaccurate.

Published June 9, 2008 2:45PM (EDT)

You remember Willie Horton, right? He's the convicted murderer whose face in an ad is credited as playing an influential role in the defeat of 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Well, now Floyd Brown, the producer of the Horton ad, is getting ready for a volley of ads aimed at Barack Obama.

On his Web site,, Brown is raising money for a series of spots. But the first came out on the Internet in late April. It hits Obama over his time in the Illinois Senate; while serving in that body, he voted against a bill that would have specifically extended the death penalty to anyone who was found guilty of a murder that was committed "in furtherance of the activities of an organized gang." has already debunked this first ad. The site points out that the sponsor of the bill Obama voted against, Illinois state Rep. Susana Mendoza, supports Obama and says the ad makes her "sick to my stomach" because of its misrepresentation of Obama's position. The ad paints him as soft on crime, but as FactCheck notes, Obama (correctly) noted when he explained his opposition to the bill that gang members who commmitted murder would be covered under the state's extant death penalty statutes, and there was fear that the bill might be overly broad and end up disproportionately affecting minorities. That was a real concern in Illinois at the time, too -- Republican George Ryan, then the state's governor, had suspended executions in the state the year before because of serious concerns over many of the cases and the targeting of minorities.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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