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Most people given clemency by Trump don't look like Alice Marie Johnson

Nora V. Demleitner

Alice Marie Johnson, whose life term President Donald Trump cut short, was the star of a Super Bowl ad. It portrayed Trump as the country’s leading criminal justice reformer, a man who actively and compassionately assists the downtrodden.

As is standard fare for Trump, the ad was based on half-truths and misleading claims. But that is not its worst feature. The ad was a cynical ploy to provide white voters with a feel-good message and an argument to rebut charges of Trump’s racism. At the same time, it reinforced the message of black criminality. 

The ad began with a photo of Johnson, who is black, on the screen, along with the words “Alice Johnson was sentenced to serve life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense.” When Johnson’s face fades out, another set of words fade up: “Thanks to President Trump, people like Alice are getting a second chance.” 

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