OKLAHOMA CITY—Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians accused Republicans of race-baiting in Oklahoma’s Senate race Wednesday in a television ad that shows images of Hispanics and dark hands receiving welfare payments.
The ad, which attacks Democratic candidate Brad Carson’s voting record on immigration, was described as malicious and xenophobic by spokespersons for various minority groups who called on Republican candidate Tom Coburn to disavow it.
“Is this going to be another century of discrimination?” said David Puente of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma City.
“I know the face of discrimination. It is ugly. We are better than that,” said former state Sen. Enoch Kelly Haney, an Indian artist of Seminole and Creek ancestry.
The group also condemned comments by Carson, who has said illegal immigration and government policies encourage employers to send jobs overseas and push salaries down.
“It doesn’t matter who it comes from. It’s wrong,” Haney said.
The GOP ad, paid for by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, says Carson pledged to fight for Oklahoma jobs but voted to make it easier for illegal immigrants to “cross our borders and take our jobs” and to allow immigrants to get welfare.
State Rep. Opio Toure, D-Oklahoma City, said the ad “injects the element of race-baiting into this most important election.” Toure, who is black, said Coburn should demand that the ad be pulled.
“I believe that political campaigns ought to be honest and they ought to be geared toward productive political discourse,” Toure said.
Rep. Rebecca Hamilton, D-Oklahoma City, said the ad uses immigrants as scapegoats for the loss of jobs and other economic problems that she said are the result of bad economic policies.
“What I don’t understand is blaming innocent people,” said Hamilton, whose district includes Hispanic neighborhoods.
Ed Romo, president of the Oklahoma City chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the ad was produced by “political agitators” from outside the state who promoted a “desperate, narrow-minded point of view.”
“It misrepresents the facts about immigration,” Romo said.
“There is no intent to steal welfare benefits here.”
Juanita Sykes of the Central Oklahoma Human Rights Coalition said the ad is particularly hurtful to the children of Hispanic immigrants.
“It’s not having a positive affect,” Sykes said.
NRSC officials have defended the ads and said they would continue to run.
A spokesman for Coburn, John Hart, said Coburn could not disavow the ad because he was not responsible for it. Hart declined comment when he was asked if Coburn agreed with the ad.