A television advertisement released by pro-Trump super PAC America First uses a stock photo of a Hungarian industrial building to accuse Joe Biden of being “too weak to save American jobs.” At the five-second mark, the video ad flashes a photograph of a foreign stock image available on shutterstock with the title, “industrial interior of a vehicle repair station.”
Hungarian-based photographer Oliver Sved confirmed to CBS News in a message that the seemingly abandoned factory featured in America First’s advertisement is actually an automobile repair station in Budapest, Hungary. Connected to the abandoned Istvántelek Train Yard, the facility remains under joint control of the Hungarian government and private companies. Partly operational to this day, the hall was formerly named the “Jeno Landler vehicle repair station,” after communist leader Jenő Landler.
Sved told CBS News he was unaware his photography could be featured in American political commercials, but was not particularly surprised, as he typically “get[s] a lot of downloads in the U.S.”
American First PAC did not immediately respond to CBS News’ request for comment.
The mishap follows another Republican ad rollout featuring foreign images from Europe to decry American job loss. A Trump campaign advertisement touting the “great American comeback” released earlier this month include a stock image of a warehouse in Ukraine, as first reported by ABC News.
Last week, a digital spot released by the “Make America Great Again Committee” – a fundraising arm of the Trump campaign – called on supporters to “support our troops” on September 11, employing a stock photo of Russian-made fighter jets and Russian models dressed as soldiers, according to Politico.
In early July, the Trump campaign featured Brazil’s “Christ the Redeemer statue” in a series of Facebook and Instagram advertisements, vowing ‘we will protect this,’ amid the president’s pledged support for preserving Confederate monuments and historical statues. And later that month, the president’s reelection campaign utilized an image of pro-democracy protests in Ukraine from 2014 to depict American “chaos and violence.”
“I get the idea of using generic stock images that might come from a foreign country because it’s often a lot cheaper to produce imagery in foreign countries,” veteran GOP ad maker Mike Murphy told CBS News, “But not when it’s a symbol of importance.”
Murphy noted the irony of repeatedly outsourcing campaign images to promote a message of “America First.” The former political adviser to Senator John McCain and Governor Jeb Bush and vocal critic of President Trump’s re-election bid told CBS News he typically screens his work for foreign images in the “rough cut” stage of video editing. Murphy underlined what he called the advertisement’s “hilarious” use of Hungarian photographs to attack “Joe Biden from Scranton, Pennsylvania.” He later added, “People might start to notice he’s hiring foreign photographers to make up a misleading attack.”
The 30-second spot released last week first ran on September 13 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania — a former thriving steel mill town — as part of a $22 million digital and TV ad buy in political battleground states Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Sarah Ewall-Wice contributed to the post.