Tea Party Express Ad Uses Image Of Terrorist Captured In 1999 For Anti-Obama Attack

April 12, 2011 12:37 pm ET — Alan Pyke

A new TV ad from the Tea Party Express uses the image of a would-be terrorist captured at the tail end of the Clinton administration to accuse President Obama of being soft on terrorism. As the narrator claims that "our borders at home remain unsecured as drug traffickers and terrorists seek to exploit our negligence," this image flashes onto the screen:

That man is Ahmed Ressam, and he's not exploiting anyone's negligence right now — he's serving a 22-year term in a federal prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International Airport, following his arrest in December 1999. But when you're trying to shift blame for border security onto President Obama, those kinds of details apparently don't matter; you need a scary-looking terrorist, even one who's been on ice since Bill Clinton was president. (Read our full fact check of the ad here. Read about the counterproductive nature of Muslim-baiting political ads from the National Security Network.)

The story of the ad's origins is almost as misleading as the ad's claims about the Obama presidency. Press reports credit the ad to "The Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama," but FEC filings show a "Campaign To Defeat Barrack [sic] Obama" only filed its Statement of Organization yesterday and the ad itself says the Tea Party Express is responsible for its content.

Like their new, misspelled PAC, the Tea Party Express is itself a bit of a shell game, albeit a prominent one. Far from an organic, newfangled outfit, the Tea Party Express was spawned at a GOP consulting firm and used a small PAC from 2008 called Our Country Deserves Better as a launching pad. After their race-baiting national spokesman Mark Williams resigned last summer, TPE fired off a couple thousand TV ads and landed a big political fish: They will join with CNN to host a Republican primary debate in September.

It remains to be seen if their use of multiple sock-puppet PACs and misinformed, fear-mongering TV ads will undermine whatever legitimacy the CNN partnership earned them in the mainstream media.

UPDATE: The "Campaign To Defeat Barack Obama" press release announcing the ad makes no mention of the Tea Party Express or Our Country Deserves Better.