Major US TV networks and Facebook have taken the unusual step of rejecting an inflammatory ad by President Trump’s political team that effectively closes a fiercely fought midterm campaign with a message portraying immigrants as a violent threat.
The 30-second political spot, which mirrors the president’s apocalyptic warnings about a caravan of asylum seekers in Mexico, was widely denounced as racist and misleading after Mr. Trump shared a longer version of it last week.
NBC and Facebook, both of which had run the ad over the weekend, reversed course after a backlash on Monday and announced that the commercial would be removed, saying it fell short of their in-house advertising standards. CNN had refused to air the ad from the start, calling it “racist.”
Even Fox News, which has made warnings about the migrant caravan a staple of its prime time coverage of the midterms, felt compelled to distance itself from the ad.
The network’s president of ad sales, Marianne Gambelli, said in a statement that the network had stopped airing it on Sunday.
“It will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” she wrote.
Trump, for his part, said he was unaware of the controversy.
“You’re telling me something I don’t know about,” he told reporters before boarding Air Force One. “We have a lot of ads, and they certainly are effective, based on the numbers that we’re seeing.”
Asked about critics who called the ad offensive, Mr. Trump replied: “A lot of things are offensive. Your questions are offensive a lot of times so, you know.”
Divisive, over-the-top political ads have been a hallmark of this year’s age-of-rage midterm battle, as candidates across the country accused their opponents of being terrorists, criminals, and in one case, deserving of a golf spike to the face.
[As the midterm elections near, read about how Trump is bringing up immigration as an issue.]
But Mr. Trump’s ad, which aired on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” the top-rated program, sparked a particular outcry — and a debate over the limits of paid political speech hours before voters head to the polls.
The actress Debra Messing, whose show “Will and Grace” airs on NBC, wrote on Twitter that she was “ashamed” that her network “aired this disgusting racist ad.”
The film director Judd Apatow, who has made movies at NBC’s corporate sibling Universal Studios, called it “a low point in the history of NBC.”>