Privately, Democratic strategists have complained to me for months about something that looked very real but that nobody could prove: that photos of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, were being darkened and then used in negative posts by the campaign and supporters of her opponent, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
It’s a thing that puts a journalist in an odd position: It’s absolutely newsworthy, and totally racist, if photos of a Black candidate—especially a woman running to become the first Black, southern governor in U.S. history—were being intentionally altered by having the skin tone darkened. It’s an old dirty trick; people committed to keeping Black folks out of office have darkened pictures of Black political candidates for years, invoking old stereotypes that correlate deeper skin pigmentation with criminality, negative character traits and irresponsibility.
The problem for me was that there was that lacking evidence that Kemp’s campaign or his supporters had darkened Abrams’ photos, it was a difficult accusation to make in print. Kemps’ campaign said in a July email that neither it nor any of its digital media vendors had anything to do with darkening a photo of Abrams that had been taken from a screenshot of a 2018 appearance she had made on CNN. “Any accusation to the contrary is absurd and simply false,” said Cody Hall, the Kemp campaign’s director of communications.
Besides that, none of the Dems who had hit me up since earlier this year would publicly accuse the governor’s campaign of altering the photos and Abrams’ campaign offered a consistent no-comment, leaving me with not much to write about. That was until this morning, when Twitter did the work for me.
The Kemp campaign tweeted an image of Abrams on Monday accusing her of having a “radical agenda”, being a celebrity politician and catering to “liberal elites”, pretty much normal GOP attack tweet stuff.
But folks who came across Twitter seemed to notice something was off about the picture.
Whether you believe the photo was darkened or not almost seems not to matter, given many folks who saw the ad also retorted to the Kemp campaign that it wasn’t giving what the governor’s supporters thought it would give.