Charles Booker Wears Noose In New Campaign Ad: Lynching Was ‘Used To Kill My Ancestors’

Charles Booker, the Democratic nominee for Senate in Kentucky, wears a noose in a new campaign ad that blasts Sen. Rand Paul (R) for initially opposing legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime.

“In Kentucky, like many states throughout the South, lynching was a tool of terror,” Booker, the first Black candidate to win the Democratic nomination for Senate in Kentucky, says in the ad. “It was used to kill hopes for freedom. It was used to kill my ancestors.”

In 2020, Paul blocked the Senate from unanimously passing the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, a bill to strengthen sentencing requirements for lynching crimes, arguing that it was too broadly written. The Senate was attempting to pass the bill, named for the Black teenager lynched in Mississippi in 1955, on the day of funeral services for George Floyd, the Black man murdered by Minneapolis police in 2020.

Booker’s ad also criticizes other controversial statements Paul has made, including saying in 2011 that “a right to health care” means “that you believe in slavery,” and his past criticism of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“My opponent?” Booker says, as the ad shows an image of Paul. “The very person who compared expanded health care to slavery. The person who said he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act. The person who single-handedly blocked an anti-lynching act from being federal law.”

Paul’s blockade of the 2020 anti-lynching legislation drew criticism from civil rights leaders and Democrats, including then-Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.). Harris, who is now vice president, slammed Paul at the time for “trying to weaken a bill that was already passed” by seeking to amend it.

Paul claimed, in response, that he wanted to alter the bill “not because I take lynching lightly, but because I take it seriously, and this legislation does not.” He argued that the bill would define lynching “so broadly as to include a minor bruise or abrasion.”

The Senate ultimately passed anti-lynching legislation in March of this year, more than a century after the effort to make lynching a federal crime originally began.

Paul co-sponsored that legislation, which he said addressed his concerns that the previous legislation would lead to oversentencing in some cases. He said he had worked with Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.) to make the law stronger.

“Strengthening the language of this bill has been my goal all along, and I’m pleased to have worked with Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott to get this right and ensure the language of this bill defines lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is,” Paul said in a statement shortly before the bill unanimously passed.

President Joe Biden signed the act into law on March 29.

Booker’s ad does not mention Paul’s eventual support for the legislation.

Jake Cox, Paul’s deputy campaign manager, reiterated that Paul had worked to improve the legislation and said Booker’s ad misrepresents the senator’s views on the issue.

“Dr. Paul worked diligently to strengthen the language of this legislation and is a cosponsor of the bill that now ensures that federal law will define lynching as the absolutely heinous crime that it is,” Cox said in a statement. “Any attempt to state otherwise is a desperate misrepresentation of the facts.”

Paul has previously attempted to walk back other comments Booker criticizes, including his criticism of the Civil Rights Act.

In 2013, Paul claimed that he had “never wavered” in his support for the landmark law, insisting that he had merely disputed “how much of the remedy” for discrimination against Black people “should come under federal, or state, or private purview.”

He originally said, though, that he opposed a key section of the law that made it illegal for private businesses to discriminate based on race.

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