Trump campaign used image of top military general in ad 'without his consent'

Online ad features a picture of general Mark Milley in the Situation Room at the White House

Matt Mathers@MattEm90
Tuesday 13 October 2020 11:01
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Uniformed personnel are banned from appearing in political campaigns, says DOD
Uniformed personnel are banned from appearing in political campaigns, says DOD

Donald Trump has become embroiled in another row over a political campaign ad - this time the president's team has been accused of using an image of a top military chief without his consent, in a potential beach of Department of Defense (DOD) guidelines.

The online ad features a picture of Mr Trump, his vice president, Mike Pence, secretary of defense, Mark Esper and military adviser, general Mark Milley, sat in the Situation Room at the White House on 29 October last year watching the raid on ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"President Trump wants you to request your ballot," the ad reads, with a click-through button at the bottom taking users through to Mr Trump's voter sign-up website. "Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc," says a message at the bottom of the ad.

But a defense source told Politico that no one from the president's campaign team reached out to general Milley to ask for his permission to use the image.

And according to DOD guidelines, military or federal employees in uniform are banned from appearing in political campaigns.

“This photo, like many others, was not used with [Milley's] knowledge or consent,” the source, who asked not to be named, told Politico.

The Independent has contacted the Trump campaign and the Pentagon for comment.

Team Trump's latest apparent contravention of impartiality guidelines comes just days after one of the country's top doctors slapped down the president for using his words out of context in a separate political ad.

Last week, the Trump campaign ran a commercial in Michigan after the president was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center following coronavirus treatment.

The 30-second ad used a quote from Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and one of the most recognisable faces in the US's response to the pandemic.

"I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more," Dr Fauci was quoted as saying in the ad, leading viewers to assume that the physician had been talking about the president's handling of the virus, which has so far claimed some 215,000 US lives.  

The full quote reads: "We've never had a threat like this. The coordinated response has been... there are a number of adjectives to describe it - impressive, I think is one of them. We're talking about all hands on deck. I, as one of many people on a team, I'm not the only person.

"I'm down at the White House virtually every day with the task force. It's every single day. So, I can't imagine that under any circumstances that anybody could be doing more."

In a statement provided to CNN on Sunday, Dr Fauci made it clear that he did not support the president's campaign, adding his words had been misconstrued.

He said: "In my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate.

“The comments attributed to me without my permission in the GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials."

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