President Donald Trump sought celebrity support for a $250-million ad campaign funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, documents released on Thursday reveal. Public relations firms hired by the department reportedly wanted to portray Trump’s coronavirus response in a positive light, and were searching for celebrities based on support for Trump as opposed to their target audience or thoughts on his response.

Though the hundreds of celebrities didn’t even know they were being vetted and didn’t agree to participate, the documents reveal detailed notes taken on their political ideologies and what they had said about Trump in the past. For instance, it was noted that Julianne Moore was a “Liberal Democrat, pro-choicer, LGBT rights supporter, and gun control campaigner,” while Robert Downey Jr. is “not a Trump supporter, [but] identifies as a conservative.” At least 22 celebrities were listed as having “declined,” including Selena Gomez, Britney Spears, Carrie Underwood, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Hugh Jackman.

The idea behind the ad campaign was to unite citizens in the vein of World War II-era icons such as Rosie the Riveter, utilizing taglines such as “Helping the President Will Help the Country.”

HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo had come up with the slogans planned for the ads, but was deemed to be unnecessarily interfering in and politicizing non-partisan work that should be done by contract departments. He subsequently took a medical leave from the department, and was removed from email chains planning the campaign.

“It is completely inappropriate to frame a taxpayer-funded ad campaign around ‘helping’ President Trump in the weeks and days before the election,” said Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “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.”

Leave a comment

Read more about: