Harrison hits Graham over ad showing him with darker skin tone in background

Democrat Jaime Harrison hit Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFeinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee Democrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE (R-S.C.) on Wednesday for running a Facebook ad that features an apparently darkened image of the Senate hopeful in the background, suggesting that the ad carries racist undertones. 

“Lindsey Graham is playing a part in a 400-year history of an Old South that had no room for people who looked like me,” Harrison, who is Black, said in a statement, later adding that “Lindsey Graham might have darkened my face — but it’s Lindsey who the people of South Carolina can’t recognize.”

The ad, which began running on July 23 and cost less than $100, according to Facebook’s ad library, features an image of comedian Kathy Griffin superimposed over a darkened background and a photo of Harrison. The effect used on the photo makes Harrison’s skin tone appear darker. 


“Hollywood continues to bankroll my opponent, raising tens of thousands in campaign cash to attack me — but they fail to understand this simple fact: South Carolinians won't stand for Radical Leftists telling them how to think and how to vote. Are you with me?” a caption accompanying the ad reads.

A link directs viewers to a fundraising page for Graham’s campaign.

The photo effect used on Harrison in the ad was first reported on Tuesday by CNN. The ad was still active on Facebook as of noon on Wednesday. 

T.W. Arrighi, the communications director for Graham’s campaign, accused Harrison of “manufacturing a fake controversy to inject race into this campaign at a time of great turbulence in our country.”

He said several recent ads from Harrison’s campaign and one from Graham’s campaign used a similar photo effect as the Facebook ad in question.


“Shame on Jaime Harrison for manufacturing a fake controversy to inject race into this campaign at a time of great turbulence in our country,” Arrighi said. “It’s sad that our opponent has made up fake accusations about a graphic — one intended to highlight Jaime Harrison’s support from Kathy Griffin, a liberal actress who once posed with a fake severed head of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE

“The artistic effect used, the same one the Harrison campaign used multiple times this month in their own graphics and that our campaign used on Senator Graham just two days earlier, is a non-story. The only person who wants to shift focus from policies important to South Carolinians — like creating jobs and bringing our medical supply chain back from China — is Jaime Harrison who wants to change the subject and hide his radically liberal positions from the voters.”

Guy King, a spokesperson for Harrison’s campaign, called on Graham to delete the ad from Facebook and donate the money he raised from it to “an organization that fights against bigotry.”

“This is the oldest trick in the book,” King said. “It’s disrespectful for Lindsey Graham to resort to such desperate measures and shows just how scared he is from our grassroots movement. Lindsey Graham needs to remove the ad and donate the money to an organization that fights against bigotry.”

While South Carolina remains favorable territory for Republicans, Graham is facing his toughest reelection bid in years. Recent polls show the GOP incumbent in the lead, but Harrison, a former South Carolina Democratic Party chairman, has tapped into Democratic enthusiasm, both nationally and in South Carolina, to raise money for his campaign. 

In the second quarter of the year, Harrison pulled in a staggering $14 million and ended June with about $10.2 million in the bank. Graham raked in about $8.4 million that same time frame but still held a significant cash-on-hand advantage at the end of the quarter, reporting $15 million in cash reserves.

The Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, currently rates the South Carolina Senate race as "likely Republican."