Pete Buttigieg left red-faced after campaign uses random image of Kenyan woman to promote plan to fight racial inequality in America
The Buttigieg campaign issued a statement and called it an accident.
Top 2020 Democratic contender and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is facing backlash after his 2020 presidential campaign used the picture of a Kenyan woman to promote his plan to help the black community in the United States.
The gaffe comes amid pressure on him to demonstrate he can win over black voters, who for now have largely sided with former Vice President Joe Biden.
The Democratic frontrunner's website Pete for America used the stock image of a black woman and a child to advertise their Douglas Plan devised for Black America. The picture used by the campaign, however, was from Kenya and the woman in the picture since then has objected to its use, asking why the picture was used at all.
"What's the meaning of the message accompanied by the photo? Have no idea of what's happening", she told a reporter from The Intercept. The image has since been removed from the website. The picture is reportedly available on Pexels, a free stock photography website, where a caption states that the image was taken in Kenya.
The woman, whose name was not mentioned, explained that she had agreed to pose for a picture, however, she did not expect that it would become a readily available stock image. The move received flak from lawmakers, including 2020 Democratic contender Senator Kamala Harris, and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.
"I don’t have words to describe that", Harris said in response to questions about the photo. “I’m sure someone agrees that was a big mistake. The Democratic nominee has got to be someone who has the experience of connecting with all of who we are as the diversity of the American people and is going to have to have the ability to speak with and speak to the issues that impact everyone. My experience is that when you have actually had the experience of working with folks you have a better ability to represent.”
While Omar took to Twitter on Sunday evening to write: "This is not ok or necessary." Several others on Twitter also criticized the Buttigieg campaign's move, with one user writing: "Could a Google image search have saved Mayor Pete's campaign team from this blunder?" While another branded the incident as "tone-deaf reckless ignorance and laziness."
Buttigieg's presidential poll numbers witnessed a recent jump in the battleground state of Iowa, however, his gaffes involving the black community have not ceased. The South Bend Mayor, earlier this year, was criticized for protecting police in his town and failing to protect people of color after a police officer shot and killed a black man in June with his body camera not switched on.
Buttigieg campaign's response
Buttigieg's campaign responded to the controversy in a statement to Salon saying that the use of the controversial picture was an accident. "As our campaign has grown, we have brought all of our web development in-house to help guard against mistakes like this. We apologize for its use and the confusion it created", the statement said.