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Trump campaign ad evokes antisemitic trope by casting Bernie Sanders as puppet master

The Trump campaign ran a Facebook advertisement depicting Senator Bernie Sanders as a puppet master controlling presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday, one of a series of similar ads depicting politicians, including former president Barack Obama and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, as puppeteers manipulating Biden.

The trope of the “puppet master Jew” has been traced back to the 18th century and is thought to stem from stereotypes that Jews orchestrate world politics and economies. The trope was prominently featured in Nazi propaganda and remains a threatening vector for anti-Semitism today. Social media posts by the shooter who attacked the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh were directly linked to this trope.

Biden is known as a centrist, but the Trump campaign has depicted him as a pawn for leftist causes and politicians ranging from “Antifa” to vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. According to a July statement released by Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien, the campaign “will expose Joe Biden as a hapless tool of the extreme left and contrast his failures with the undeniable successes of President Trump.”

This past summer, President Trump referred to Joe Biden as a puppet of Sanders, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and “the militant left” in a public statement. The GOP also wrote a blog post entitled “Joe Biden: A Puppet of Bernie and the Radical Left,” which elicited accusations of antisemitism from Jewish communities and organizations.

The Trump campaign has been accused of ignoring anti-Semitic associations with symbols and tropes in the past. In June, Facebook removed a Trump campaign post targeting “Antifa,” which featured a Nazi symbol — an upside-down red triangle — that was used to mark German political prisoners. In his last campaign, the President tweeted a picture of Hillary Clinton over a background of dollar bills with “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” written on a shape resembling a star of David. Campaign spokespeople described the post as featuring a “sheriff’s badge” rather than a Jewish star and removed it after facing backlash, denying that it had anti-Semitic origins or connotations.


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