Pete Buttigieg hit another blunder in connecting to Black America.
The Democratic presidential candidate’s website used a stock photo from Kenya to promote his Douglass Plan, which he described as a “comprehensive investment in the empowerment of black America,” the Washington Post reports.
The woman in the photo, who is not African-American and has never heard of the Douglass Plan, became privy to her likeness being used on Buttigieg’s campaign website and was confused, the Intercept reported on Sunday (Nov. 17).
“What’s the meaning of the message accompanied by the photo?” the woman asked Intercept reporter Ryan Grim. “Have no idea of what’s happening…”
Buttigieg has had trouble making inroads with the Black community despite polls indicating he’s heading towards becoming a frontrunner among Democratic presidential hopefuls. Now, the controversial photo is just another example of that disconnect, the Washington Post reports.
“This is not ok or necessary,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is a Somali-born refugee, tweeted about the picture.
“This photo was removed from the page on our website about the Douglass Plan months ago as part of a regular update,” Buttigieg’s campaign said in a statement to BET.
“However, we know we owe an explanation for how it came to be used to begin with. Using stock photos is standard practice across many campaigns.,” the statement continued. “The stock photo in question, which is widely utilized across the Internet, was initially selected while a contractor was running our site, and the website it was pulled from did not indicate the photo was taken in Kenya in any way. As our campaign has grown, we have brought all of our web development in-house to help guard against mistakes like this. We apologize for its use and the confusion it created.”
When Buttigieg’s campaign announced that more than 400 people in South Carolina endorsed his Douglass plan, it included three Black South Carolina Democrats. While they endorsed the plan, they do not endorse Buttigieg.
“Buttigieg persuaded hundreds of prominent black South Carolinians to sign onto the plan even if they are not supporting his candidacy,” the Washington Post reported on Nov. 11.
Columbia City Council member Tameika Isaac Devine was among the 400 who endorsed the plan. She told the Intercept that the campaign was “intentionally vague” about presenting her endorsement.
The other two South Carolina Democrats -- state Rep. Ivory Thigpen and the state’s Black Caucus chair, Johnnie Cordero -- listed as supporting the Douglass plan on the campaign’s October announcement were surprised to see their names.
“I never endorsed that plan,” Cordero told the Intercept. “I don’t know how my name got on there.”
Thigpen added that Buttigieg’s campaign’s announcement “was not an accurate representation of where I stand.”
According to Buttigieg’s campaign, Cordero’s name was removed from the list, but Thigpen is still named as a supporter, the Washington Post reports.
“Our campaign is working to build a multi-racial coalition, and we sought and received input from numerous Black policy experts and advisers to create a comprehensive plan to dismantle systemic racism: the Douglass Plan,” Buttigieg’s campaign said in a statement to BET. “We asked a number of Black South Carolinians, as well as South Carolinians from many backgrounds, to support the Douglass Plan, and we are proud and grateful that hundreds agreed to do so.
“In the HBCU Times op-ed and in communications with the press, we’ve been clear that not every supporter of the plan is Black, and have never claimed otherwise in any public communication,” they continued. “We never gave the impression publicly that these people were endorsing Pete, only that they supported the plan. After they indicated their support, we reached out to people multiple times giving them the opportunity to review the language of the op-ed and the option to opt-out. We did hear from people who weren’t comfortable being listed and we removed them.”
Buttigieg’s campaign added, “Pete will continue to talk about the Douglass Plan wherever he goes, regardless of the audience, as there are many communities of Americans committed to eradicating racial inequity.”
As far as the photo of the Kenyan woman, the Intercept reported that the woman did agree to be photographed, but “didn’t intend to pose for a stock photo.”
(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)