The camera pans to reveal a noose around Booker’s neck.
“It was used to kill my ancestors,” he says. “Now, in a historic victory for our commonwealth, I have become the first Black Kentuckian to receive the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.”
“My opponent?” Booker continues, as images of Paul flash on the screen. “The person who single-handedly blocked an anti-lynching act from being federal law.”
The ad does not mention that Paul supported an updated bill, known as the Emmett Till Antilynching Act, that passed in the Senate in March and is now law. Paul did single-handedly hold up the legislation in 2020, saying he was concerned it could be applied too broadly.
In March, Paul acknowledged to the Louisville Courier-Journal that “it wasn’t a popular stand to slow this bill down” in 2020 but that he still thought it had been the right thing to do. Paul later co-sponsored the updated bill, which was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
“In the end, I think the compromise language will hopefully keep us from incarcerating somebody for some kind of crime that’s not lynching,” Paul told the newspaper. “We just wanted to make sure that the punishment was proportional to the crime, and I guess it’s just good news that it finally worked out.”
President Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law in March, noting that it had taken more than a century of failed efforts to pass a federal law that expressly prohibited lynching.
“For a long time, lynching was pure terror to enforce the lie that not everyone, not everyone belongs in America, not everyone is created equal,” Biden said then in a Rose Garden ceremony after the bill’s signing. “Innocent men, women and children hung by nooses from trees, bodies burned and drowned and castrated. Their crimes? Trying to vote, trying to go to school, trying to own a business or preach the gospel. False accusations of murder, arson and robbery. Simply being Black.”
The new law amends the U.S. Code to designate lynching a hate crime punishable by as many as 30 years in prison. More than 4,000 people, mostly African Americans, were reported lynched in the United States from 1882 to 1968 in all but a handful of states. Ninety-nine percent of perpetrators escaped state or local punishment.
Booker and Paul will face off in the November general election. Paul faced four challengers in the May 17 Republican primary but won handily. Booker, a former Kentucky state representative and Louisville native, was unsuccessful in his attempt to be the Democratic Senate nominee in 2020 but also easily won his primary race last month.
Felicia Sonmez and Eugene Scott contributed to this report.
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