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Balter claims Katko’s ads are racist, misogynist. Are they?

John Katko for Congress YouTube
An image of Balter from one of Katko's ads.

Central New York Democratic congressional candidate Dana Balter continues to call Rep. John Katko’s ads racist and misogynist in the race for the 24th Congressional District. The Katko campaign accuses Balter of lying in her ads.

In one https://youtu.be/sVo-NmoRx4w">Katko ad on bail reform, a man with a hoodie walks through a neighborhood while the voiceover asks, “Do you support releasing violent criminals into our streets? Dana Balter does.”

Balter said it’s an example of racist tactics.

Credit John Katko for Congress YouTube
John Katko for Congress YouTube
An image from a Katko ad featuring a man in a hoodie.

“In this moment in our history, when we are finally having the national reckoning with racial justice that is so long overdue, for him to play into and amplify a stereotype that’s not only mean, but it actually makes young black men in our community less safe, by perpetuating those stereotypes, that is an inexcusable choice on his part,” Balter said.

In a statement, the Katko campaign’s political director said there are no people of color in the ad, and to assume the spot portrays a Black man is offensive.

Shana Gadarian is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and an expert in political advertising. She said while this ad is not overtly racist, in the past, political ads have tied Black men to crime.

“It does use these crime tropes in a modern way, which is to say Democrats will be so soft on crime that you and your family will not be safe,” Gadarian said.

Credit Katko for Congress YouTube
Katko for Congress YouTube
Dana Balter in a Katko ad.

Balter also claims Katko’s ads are misogynist because they use the most unflattering photos of her, doctored, with the colors, contrast and intensity changed. She said they use photos of women with their mouths open, looking like they’re screaming and angry.

“This is feeding into the misogynist stereotypes of hectoring women, women who won’t shut up,” Balter said.

Gadarian does agree with that, saying some of the ads do play into female stereotypes.

“Every picture of her is darker than her actual skin tone and she has her mouth open,” Gadarian said. “She looks like she is angry and she looks like she is not in control.”

Credit Dana Balter for Congress YouTube
Dana Balter for Congress YouTube
President Trump and John Katko in a Balter ad.

As for Balter’s ads, which have superimposed Katko next to President Trump, who Katko has endorsed but hasn’t appeared next to, Gardarian said that walks less of an ethical line.

“It’s not about someone’s character, it’s about the voting record and the policies and linking someone to the party,” Gadarian said.

Katko’s campaign said Balter has lied in her ads, and is lying now, to try and distract from her extreme and costly positions. Read the full statement, from Katko for Congress Political Director Benedicte Doran, below.

"There are no people of color in our bail reform ad, and to assume the spot portrays a Black man is offensive. Our ads show Dana Balter for who she is: a professional candidate and protester. They focus on her far-left support of bail reform and a costly government takeover of healthcare. Dana Balter lies in her ads, and is lying now to try and distract from her extreme and costly positions, which is insulting to Central New York voters."

In response to this statement, WRVO asked the Katko campaign for specific examples of lying in Balter's campaign ads. The campaign would not provide that information on the record.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.