Oct 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden campaign to remove retired general from ad after complaint

Picture of Let. Gen. Sean MacFarland in 2015
Photo: Khalid Mohammed-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden campaign told Politico on Monday it will remove images of a retired Army general who led anti-ISIS military coalition from a campaign ad after he objected to his inclusion, citing the apolitical nature of the military.

Why it matters: The complaint from retired Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland references a Pentagon policy that does not permit uniformed military service members or federal employees to participate in political campaigns. The Trump campaign has also been criticized for using images of Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Mark Milley without his permission.

Details: The campaign ad, published last week, focuses on Joe Biden's support for mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles when he was a senator in 2007, according to Politico.

  • MacFarland appears in the ad shaking Biden's hand and walking alongside him in front of a a U.S. Air Force transport plane.
  • There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the ad that says “the use of U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) visual information does not imply or constitute endorsement of the U.S. military, any military personnel or the Department of Defense.”

What he's saying: When the retired general first asked the Biden campaign to have his image removed from the ad, the campaign told him they could use it because of the disclaimer and because MacFarland’s name tape on his uniform was blurred.

  • “Nobody asked permission to use my image. My request to remove it was denied,” MacFarland wrote in a since-deleted post on LinkedIn.“Let’s keep the military out of politics and vice versa. I think our country will be better off if we do.”
  • “A number of people have understandably inferred that my appearance constitutes an endorsement of the former Vice President. It does not. To be clear, I have not endorsed President Trump, either. I'm not a political person, but this isn't about just me. I object to the use of ANY military personnel in uniform in political ads - full stop.”

The Biden campaign told Politico on Monday that they will be altering the ad "in accordance with Lieutenant General MacFarland's wishes," but argued that President Trump "has shown himself happy to use our armed forces as a political prop."

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