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Republican senator deletes ad that made Jewish opponent’s nose bigger

Sen. David Perdue of Georgia deleted a Facebook ad targeting his Jewish election opponent, Jon Ossoff, that appeared to have been altered to make Ossoff’s nose bigger.

An ad for Sen. David Perdue attacking opponent Jon Ossoff.

An ad for Sen. David Perdue attacking opponent Jon Ossoff. Image by Facebook

The ad called for donations to Perdue, a Republican, by claiming that “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia.” It uses black-and-white photos of Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who is also Jewish, that have been Photoshopped to appear as if they were pulled from an old television set with poor reception.

But the Ossoff image, which was adapted from a 2017 Reuters photo of him, was also changed by having his nose lengthened and widened, even as other parts of his face stayed the same size and proportions, three graphic design experts told the Forward.

Left: A 2017 Reuters photo of Jon Ossoff. Right: A 2020 ad attacking Jon Ossoff. Three graphic designers told the Forward that the ad made Ossoff's nose bigger while other facial features remained the same size.

Left: A 2017 Reuters photo of Jon Ossoff. Right: A 2020 ad attacking Jon Ossoff. Three graphic designers told the Forward that the ad made Ossoff’s nose bigger while other facial features remained the same size. Image by Forward collage

Ossoff’s nose is “the primary difference where the altered version is larger than the original,” said Maurice Meilleur, an assistant professor of graphic design at Iowa State University. Two professional graphic designers consulted by the Forward concurred with this assessment.

The Perdue campaign called the effect an accident and said they were removing the ad from the social network.

“In the graphic design process handled by an outside vendor, the photo was resized and a filter was applied, which appears to have caused an unintentional error that distorted the image,” a campaign spokesperson said in a statement. “Obviously, this was accidental, but to ensure there is absolutely no confusion, we have immediately removed the image from Facebook. Anybody who implies that this was anything other than an inadvertent error is intentionally misrepresenting Senator Perdue’s strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”

The Ossoff campaign declined to comment. After this article was published, Ossoff tweeted that “literally no one believes” Perdue’s explanation.

The advertisement had been running since July 22 and has a potential reach of over a million accounts, according to Facebook data. The ad had achieved between 3,000 and 4,000 impressions before it was deleted.

Depictions of Jews with large noses have been staples of anti-Semitic propaganda since the mid-19th century. In the past two years, political ads attacking Jewish candidates in Connecticut and California have Photoshopped them to make them appear to be holding money, another antisemitic trope.

Meilleur, who also has a PhD in political theory, noted that Ossoff’s nose enlargement is not as pronounced as in classic images of Jew-hatred. But he argued that it could still be seen as an antisemitic dogwhistle given its juxtaposition with an image of the Jewish Schumer and the claim that the party he helps lead is trying to “buy” the election.

The original 2017 photo of Jon Ossoff, overlaid with the 2020 black-and-white attack ad that showed a proportionally bigger nose even with other body parts the same size.

The original 2017 photo of Jon Ossoff, overlaid with the 2020 black-and-white attack ad that showed a proportionally bigger nose even with other body parts the same size. Image by Courtesy of Maurice Meilleur

Both Democratic and Republican officials have been accused of antisemitism after making claims that rich Jews were trying to use their money to buy or otherwise influence elections.

Perdue, a first-term senator, and Ossoff, an investigative journalist perhaps best known for an unsuccessful run for Congress in 2017, are in a tight race that could determine the partisan balance of the Senate. The Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up.

Aiden Pink is the deputy news editor of the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aidenpink

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