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Willie Horton: Political Ads That Changed the Game | Retro Report

Willie Horton: Political Ads That Changed the Game | Retro Report

Despite a life sentence, Horton receive 10
weekend passes from prison. It’s like a baseball player. A lot of times, you’re going to do an ad
and you strike out. Nobody even cares about it. It’s rare that you have one where you swing,
and you hit, and you just watch it sail. My assistant called me up, and said, “they
caught Willie Horton.” And I said, “what do you mean they caught
him? He’s been in prison for life. Why are murderers being let out into the streets?” We learned fairly quickly that he was out
on a weekend pass, a “furlough” they called it. And he invaded a couple’s house in Maryland,
brutalized the man and the raped the woman. Dukakis believed the furlough policy would
encourage better behavior in prison by lifers. They need some kind of incentive or there
will be, you know, chaos inside. It was a big story in the local papers. So the minute we had the nomination, we knew
we were going to face Willie Horton. Bush and Dukakis on crime: Bush supports the
death penalty for first-degree murderers. Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison. One was Willie Horton. I ran an independent expenditure, which is an outside organization that isn’t involved with the actual campaign. We were scared Governor Dukakis who was running
rather large leads in the polls was going to sweep to victory, so it called for some
dramatic campaign action. Despite a life sentence, Horton receive 10
weekend passes from prison. Horton fled, kidnapped a young couple, stabbing
the man, and repeatedly raping his girlfriend. The impact and the effect I believe had a
great deal to do with Willie Horton’s race. Horton was an ugly guy. He looked like everybody’s stereotype of
a black thug I can’t believe when they made those ads they didn’t know what they were doing, raising racial fears. Willie Horton was a hardened criminal. People are rightly scared. It doesn’t matter if he’s black or white
or yellow or purple. But what ultimately killed Dukakis wasn’t
the Willie Horton ad, it was the Pauley Pavilion answer. Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and
murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer. That was as close as we were going to ever
get to the Willie Horton question. We must have done the answer 1,000 times: “I know what it’s like to be the victim of crime. I’m on the side of victims.” No I don’t Bernard, and I think you know that I have opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent. It came right across the plate and he didn’t see
it. And it was very clear after that first question
we were going to go into freefall. It was probably the first of the great independent
expenditures. We didn’t have any involvement with the
Bush campaign. We had a commonality of interest to continue
the Reagan revolution, and the ad impacted public policy all across the country. I’ll always be glad I did it. That campaign made clear that the best way
to destroy someone was to find an outside group to do the kind of ad that the candidate
himself can’t do because he’ll get killed for doing it. Such as Swift Boat Veterans, for instance. When the chips were down, you could not count
on John Kerry. John Kerry is no war hero. Now it’s become just a usual tactic. In the wake of that race, every democratic
politician I knew was tripping over themselves to vote for Three Strikes laws, mandatory
sentencing, anything they could vote for to prove they were tough on crime. What Willie Horton did was create a generation
of legislators who voted for everything, and the result was crowded prisons, suspicion in the minority community, tensions that continue to this day. In a way, I tie this to the state of America
today. This was somehow when we started beating the
heck out of each other for totally political purposes. This ad, I think, hit at the inner fears of
people. And that’s just escalated over the last, what, 28 years?

15 thoughts on “Willie Horton: Political Ads That Changed the Game | Retro Report

  1. Raising racial fears? They allowed a savage on the streets, a known threat and guess what…he burned the morons who fight for criminal rights.

  2. WILLIE HORTON ADD Came from AL GORE and used against Democrat Michael Dukakis in the presidential campaign. One Democrat who doesn't like talking about Willie Horton: The man who helped discover him, Senator Al Gore of Tennessee.

    Mr. Clinton's running mate says that he heard the name Willie Horton for the first time from Republicans, but it was Mr. Gore who first raised the issue of Massachusetts's prison furloughs during a debate in the 1988 primaries. Bush campaign aides picked up on it, and Willie Horton became the demon of the campaign.


  3. I can hate anyone of any race EQUALLY. I refuse to favor one race over another. A piece of shit is a piece of shit no matter the color. Get over it, leftist pieces of shit!!!

  4. Greatest political TV spot in the history of political TV spots.

    Democrat idiots that call this ad “racist” only prove how little of an argument in favor of their stupid & failed policies they have.

    What is racist about this ad? Is it because Willie Horton is black? Sorry Democrats, it’s not the GOP’s fault that the murder/rapist that the idiot Dukakis let out of prison was black.

    So is the argument that this ad is racist based on the notion that it’s “racist” to state a truthful fact if that fact involves a black person being a murder and rapist? Facts aren’t racist. Sorry not sorry.

  5. Ok had Willie Horton been a white guy who was a first degree
    murderer,who got a weekend furlough and during that furlough he robbed
    and raped a woman those Bush supporters would have used that against
    Dukakis. Willie Horton was going to be used against Dukakis because he
    had no business being furloughed. I do acknowledge the fact that Willie
    Horton was Black may have been viewed as something "extra" by those Bush

  6. You can see the white guilt in these people that complain about race being used and yet ignoring the horrible crimes committed by an "outstanding member" of the "protected class".

  7. Willie Horton should of never been furloughed a violent murderer set free on weekends ? How fkn insane is that. That was the real reason why Dukakis shouldn’t be elected and it needed to be exposed. Black , white , brown , made no difference.

  8. I love how people don’t believe that race was a thing with this. Let me create a picture:
    A handsome white serial killer who is well spoken. His name, Ted Bundy.Was he feared and loathed? No. Many forget that T-shirt’s were made about Bundy and women had crushes on him. Despite his terrible crimes. Of course race was a factor in the Willie Horton ad.

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