MSNBC anchor Tiffany Cross claimed that Republicans’ focus on lowering crime in the U.S. represents their "tried-and-true method of fearmongering and race-baiting."
Cross made her comments during MSNBC’s "The Cross Connection" on Saturday, where she spoke with her guests, political strategist Lucy Caldwell and Texas Democratic state representative Jasmine Crockett.
To illustrate her claim that the GOP’s anti-crime policies constitute deceptive racist attacks on the Black community, Cross compared the 2022 Republican Party midterm election strategy "Willie Horton 2.0," a reference to a campaign ad from the 1988 presidential election that pitted then-Republican Vice President George H.W. Bush against then-Gov. Michael Dukakis, D-Mass.
The ad in question criticized Dukakis for soft-on-crime policies that allowed Massachusetts inmate Willie Horton, an African American, to leave jail and murder a couple.
Cross began her argument by introducing a Republican attack ad aimed at Democratic Senate Candidate for Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes. She stated, "Republicans are resorting to their tried-and-true method of fearmongering and race baiting by focusing on crime. Take a listen."
The ad slammed Barnes as a "dangerous" and "different kind of Democrat" because his political role models are left-wing "Squad" members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who all "support ending cash bail, putting criminals back on the street."
The ad argued that Barnes supports the policy, as he wrote a bill in 2015 pushing to end cash bail. It slammed Barnes’ bill for stipulating that "the court may not use the nature, number, and gravity of the offenses as the sole sufficient reason for refusing to release" defendants.
Though Cross found the ad amusing. She brushed aside the claims it made, and immediately called it racist. She said, "Now what the ad is truly saying is that Mandela Barnes would be Wisconsin’s first Black senator. So, it’s not necessarily a dog whistle we hear, that sounds more like a bullhorn to me."
Addressing Crockett later in the segment, Cross asked, "What do you think is going to happen with this – like will these bullhorn racist attack ads, Willie Horton 2.0-type things work?"
She added, "Because quite honestly there has been a spike in homicides. That has nothing to do with Democratic polices of course and certainly Mandela Barnes is not responsible for any such thing."
Crockett replied by claiming that Republicans "consistently go after fear instead of going after facts."
Later, Cross played the "Willie Horton" ad to clarify her "Willie Horton 2.0" reference for the audience. The attack ad from the 1988 presidential race between Bush and Dukakis hammered Dukakis, then governor of Massachusetts, for opposing the death penalty and supporting policies such as allowing "first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison."
The ad claimed that because of these weekend passes, convicted murderer Willie Horton was able to leave prison and murder a young man and rape his girlfriend.
After the ad finished playing, Cross claimed it was "clearly playing on the racism that existed in America." Her general point was that the current anti-Barnes ad and the GOP’s anti-crime stance overall was part of the same supposed racist phenomenon as the Horton ad from 1988.