It should come as no surprise that a SuperPAC supporting the candidacy of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has hired a strategist who is responsible for one of the most, if not the most, notoriously racist ads in the history of racist political television ads. In 1990, then-alive openly racist Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) was mired in a close race with black former Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt when he ran an ad that was subtly entitled “Hands,” and featured a downtrodden white man crumpling up a rejection letter for a job that went to, “…a minority because of a racial quota”:
That ad was produced by Alex Castellanos, and given Trump’s notoriously racist appeal, the fit with pro-Trump SuperPAC Rebuilding America Now could not seem more natural. Yet the New York Times article breaking the news of the hiring features the headline “New ‘Super PAC’ Backing Donald Trump Hires Strategist Once Critical of Him,” and makes no mention of Castellanos’ history with Helms:
Mr. Castellanos’s involvement is notable for his previous criticism of Mr. Trump. He had quietly explored the possibilities of creating a “Stop Trump” effort last fall, and he has long urged the Republican Party to change its tone and focus in order to appeal to a broader coalition of voters.
They’re right, of course, that Castellanos has hilariously been allowed to go on TV and express shock at Trump’s success, and did, indeed, try and fail to fire up an anti-Trump SuperPAC, and all the while, nobody else challenged Castellanos on his role in racist campaign history. In fact, even uber-liberal Rachel Maddow is in on the great Castellanos cover-up, having once devoted an entire block of her show to the Helms ad without ever once mentioning Castellanos’ name.
This ad wasn’t a one-off for Castellanos and Helms, either. Castellanos worked for Helms for almost 20 years, after cutting his teeth on Ronald “Welfare Queens” Reagan‘s 1976 campaign. Part of the political angle to this is just how much the modern Republican Party owes to Helms’ fund-raising operation, which Castellanos built. Incredibly, Castellanos was fired from Jesse Helms’ 1996 campaign because he ran an ad that was even too nasty for Helms.
You could be forgiven for asking what hidey-hole of shame Castellanos retreated to, if you didn’t already know that Castellanos continued to work on even higher-profile Republican campaigns, including presidential campaigns for George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain. None of those candidates paid a price in the media for hiring Castellanos, and none of the dopey political news hosts who book him ever mention it, nor do people like Rachel Maddow who share seats with him on political panels.
Alex Castellanos is the living embodiment of the racist through-line that produced the candidacy of Donald Trump, and the media that enabled it by covering for it all these years.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.