A political commercial about illegal immigration, produced for David Vitter’s Senate campaign is designed to be political in nature but is also generating a strong emotional reaction.
“I felt insulted and offended,” said Lucas Diaz, the head of Puentes, a Hispanic economic outreach group in New Orleans. His group is lashing back at Vitter, as is the local Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Both have strongly criticized the Vitter commercial, not so much for its politics, but for the stereotypical depiction of Hispanics and the sentiment that Hispanics are the sole immigration problem.
“I just thought the message inside the ad was sort of racist in nature, singling out a specific group of people,” Diaz said.
The Vitter campaign said the ad was meant to illustrate senate candidate Charlie Melancon's votes in Congress that they claim made it easier for illegals or undocumented workers to get taxpayer benefits and welfare.
The Melancon camp says “The truth is...Charlie Melancon has always fought to stop illegal immigration, supporting a border fence and opposing amnesty.”
Political analyst Silas Lee says Vitter had a clear motive with the ad: to motivate his political base.
"However at the same time, that naturally eliminates any Latino support that he may get,” Lee said, “but in this state, the reality is immigration is not a major issue. That’s the reality."
University of New Orleans political scientist Ed Chervenak said the ad is an interesting choice when you consider Vitter has a lead in the polls.
“You would think if you were ahead, you're not going to run a whole lot of negative ads, you're going to be out there promoting yourself and the issues,” Chervenak said.
Through a spokesperson, the Vitter campaign issued a statement Thursday night.
"Senator Vitter believes in a legal immigration process for those who want to pursue the American dream.
****WWL-TV has received calls from people asking why it runs political ads that some may find questionable.
Federal law mandates that TV stations cannot refuse any ads run by candidates for federal office.