Biden campaign uses Trump-Arpaio ‘kiss’ in digital ad targeting Latino voters

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Donald Trump gave Democrats a golden moment when he embraced and then awkwardly kissed former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio near his ear at a town hall-style event in Phoenix last week.

“I don’t kiss men, but I kissed him,” Trump said afterward.

The Biden campaign has turned the kiss into a digital campaign ad reminding voters of Arpaio’s history of racial profiling and misconduct, which many Latinos in the state recall as a time of fear.

In the ad, the Trump-Arpaio embrace plays on a loop at the bottom of the screen throughout. At the top, a sequence of news clips are displayed, starting with Arpaio saying in an interview: “Well you know, they call you KKK. They did me, I think it’s an honor, right?”

That is followed by clips of local news coverage of the tactics that led to legal troubles for Arpaio. “Immigration sweeps of Latino neighborhoods, workplace raids and the alleged targeting of Latinos in traffic stops landed Arpaio in court,” says a reporter in the first clip.

Trump with Arpaio in Phoenix on Thursday. Jim Watson / AFP – Getty Images

Two more clips take the viewer through allegations about the targeting of people with “brown skin,” Arpaio’s conviction on criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to stop singling out people based on their ethnicity and detaining them, and Trump’s eventual pardoning of Arpaio for that conviction.

The ad wraps up with the comment Trump made at the podium last Thursday about not kissing men.

The ad launched Saturday, between Trump events in Arizona on Thursday and in Nevada on Sunday whose purpose was partly to rally Latino supporters. The ad will run on social media platforms in those two states and Pennsylvania, the Biden campaign said.

The kiss is an example of“Trump’s airtight, long-standing relationship with America’s most infamous sheriff, who had dedicated his life and career to violating the civil rights and freedoms of Mexicans and Latinos across Maricopa County,” the Biden campaign said in a news release about the ad.

“We had a real border with this guy. People said he was too tough. … Now they’re saying, ‘Where is Sheriff Joe?’’’ Trump said at the Arizona town hall.

Arpaio has long been regarded by critics as the face of racially bigoted immigration policies, known for tactics that included holding immigrants in tent cities in the heat and having male immigrant detainees wear pink underwear. Arpaio’s actions and the 2010 state law, SB1070, that allowed police to question people about their citizenship and immigration status helped mobilize Latino voters in recent elections, including in 2020 when Arizona voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since Bill Clinton in 1996.

“Palling around with the guy who illegally rounded up and abused Mexicans and Latinos every chance he got should surprise no one — Trump has made attacking and vilifying Latinos his political brand,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Maca Casado said in a statement. “If Trump thinks he can kiss the ring of this criminal and get away with it, he has a whole other thing coming for him. … Trump doesn’t know our community’s political power.”

NBC News has reached out to the Trump campaign for a response.

A rise in the number of migrant arrivals at the border, which began during Trump’s administration, and the frustration of communities who have tried to shelter them have become rallying points for Trump. Polls have shown increases in support among Latino and other voters for tougher immigration measures at the border. But Latinos are less likely to support immigration crackdowns and increased deportations than non-Latinos, according to surveys.   

Trump repeatedly blasted Biden at the events in Arizona and Nevada for the numbers of immigrants crossing the border illegally, which has become Trump’s go-to issue in public comments, including immediately after his conviction in his hush money trial on May 30.

In his rally, Trump said Biden has “imported more illegal aliens into our country than at any other time. … They’re changing the fabric of our country; they’re destroying our country.”

Previously, Trump has said immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country and vowed to conduct the largest mass deportation in U.S. history on his first day back in office.

He also said Biden has allowed criminals into the country, suggesting that was the case with Venezuelans arriving at the border.

“In Venezuela, they took all of their criminals and dumped them into a place called the United States of America,” Trump said, adding that Venezuela’s crime rate had dropped as a result.

“Next time we will meet in Venezuela because it’s going to be a lot safer,” he said.

PolitiFact examined past statements Trump has made about Venezuela dumping criminals and found it to be false.

Suzanne Gamboa

Suzanne Gamboa is a national reporter for NBC Latino and

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“I adore plugins, because they are astonishing.”

“The Biden campaign put out a digital ad around former President Donald Trump’s awkward kiss and hug with former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose racial profiling and harsh immigration tactics…”

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