The Trump administration’s US$250 million (approx. $355 million) coronavirus ad campaign was highly motivated by politics, according to a letter from House Democrats obtained by Politico, down to the celebrity endorsements it would have featured.
The administration awarded a US$250 million contract for an ad campaign designed to “defeat despair and inspire hope” amid the pandemic and heading into the 2020 election.
The campaign, which has not made it to air, featured interviews with actor Dennis Quaid and singer CeCe Winans, who distanced themselves from it last month after reports surfaced of its political nature.
Addressed to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the letter included filings from ad contractors that said 274 celebrities were considered for participation in the campaign based on details of their political stances and whether or not they support President Trump.
The lengthy list of proposed celebrities included Robert Downey Jr., Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Cardi B, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, John Travolta, Jennifer Lopez, Zack Galifianakis and many more. However, nearly every celebrity was still “pending answer.”
The letter also shows that each celebrity had a summary of notes on whether they’ve spoken poorly of President Trump, if they’ve been arrested, and their views on gay marriage, gun control, LGBTQI+ rights and abortion.
“Spokespeople for public service campaigns should be chosen on their ability to reach the target audience, not their political affiliation. Yet, documents produced by the contractors indicate that the Trump administration vetted spokespeople based on their political positions and whether they support President Trump,” the letter said.
The notes include how Pitt made anti-Trump comments during his acceptance speech at the 2020 Oscars, how Lopez delivered a political statement at her Super Bowl performance regarding Trump’s immigration policies, that Eilish said Trump is “destroying our country and everything we care about.”
Also according to the document, Jack Black was “known to be a classic Hollywood Liberal”; Lawrence was identified as “not a Trump supporter, but supporter (sic) Hillary Clinton”; Johnny Depp “appears to be aligned with the liberal left”; and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine is a “liberal Democrat who supported Obama and fights for gay rights.”
Only 10 celebrities from the list were approved: Quaid, Winans, Marc Anthony, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miranda Lambert, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Garth Brooks, Dwyane Wade, Enrique Iglesias and Shulem Lemmer.
The filings show Lemmer’s interview was set for September 24, Anthony’s was being rescheduled and Quaid’s and Winans’ took place in early September. The rest of the participants’ filming dates were left blank.
“It is completely inappropriate to frame a taxpayer-funded ad campaign around ‘helping’ President Trump in the weeks and days before the election. This theme also ignores the reality that more than 220,000 Americans have died from coronavirus — a fact that should not be whitewashed in a legitimate public health message,” the Democrats said in the letter.
The ad campaign is currently under review by the Department of Health and Human Services.