The shape of a Jewish nose – or rather, one nose in particular – has become an issue in an already fractious campaign between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.
Perdue’s campaign July 27 withdrew a Facebook campaign ad in which Ossoff’s nose appeared to have been altered. The ad had been placed three separate times in July, according to Facebook’s ad library.
The ad claimed that “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia,” and used black-and-white photos of Ossoff and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who also is Jewish.
During a July 28 news conference, Ossoff decried “the digital attack ad . . . that was manipulated to enlarge and extend my nose, in what is one of the most classic anti-Semitic tropes in history.”
Perdue’s campaign said July 28 the alteration was an “unfortunate and inadvertent error” by an outside vendor, who no longer will be employed, and reiterated an earlier statement that Perdue has a “strong and consistent record of standing firmly against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.”
According to Facebook’s ad library, the ad was placed July 9, July 13 and July 22. The states where the ad was viewed the most were Georgia, Texas and Florida. The age group that viewed the ad the most were those 65 and older.
The story was first reported July 27 by the Forward, which said that three graphic designers determined that a photo taken of Ossoff in 2017 by the Reuters news agency had been “changed by having his nose lengthened and widened, even as other parts of his face stayed the same size and proportions.”
The text of the ad read: “BREAKING: Chuck Schumer’s super PAC is spending $3 MILLION on false attack ads against me. I need YOU to help me set the record straight. We must not let Schumer and the radical left buy Georgia’s Senate for the Democrats.”
Separately, the ad read: “Chip in $20.20 to our RAPID RESPONSE FUND now.”
Perdue’s campaign manager, Ben Fry, said in a July 28 statement: “In light of an unfortunate and inadvertent error involving one of our Facebook advertisements produced and placed by an outside vendor, our campaign will be making a change to a new digital fundraising company. Senator Perdue did not know about nor see the ad before it ran, and he is committed to ensuring future mistakes of this kind do not occur.”
During a July 28 online news conference, Ossoff said that using the words “buy Georgia” accompanied by images of two Jews was itself an anti-Jewish trope. “For my opponent to stoop to this kind of incredibly divisive, inappropriate, offensive tactic is really disturbing and its unbecoming of a sitting U.S. senator,” Ossoff said. He called on Perdue to donate any funds raised by the ad “to groups that promote community healing, and community unity and tolerance.”
According to Facebook’s political ad library, the ad had the potential to reach 1 million people, but a small fraction in impressions, the number of times content is displayed. The first time it was posted, on July 9, the campaign paid less than $100 and it registered fewer than 1,000 impressions. On July 13, the campaign paid $100 to $199 and registered 8,000 to 9,000 impressions. On July 22, Perdue’s campaign spent $300 to $399 and the ad registered some 3,000 to 4,000 impressions.
A Morning Consult poll conducted July 17 to 26 showed Perdue with a 3 percentage-point lead. Ossoff’s campaign has touted internal polling showing the race to be a statistical dead heat. The Cook Political Report lists the race as a toss-up, for a seat the Republicans can ill afford to lose as they try to retain control of the U.S. Senate. Also on the Nov. 3 ballot will be Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel.
The Perdue ad was criticized in statements issued by the Atlanta regional offices of the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League.
“We were shocked to see Senator Perdue’s ad and to learn that Jon Ossoff’s nose had been altered,” said Dov Wilker, AJC regional director. “This along with the reference to a Jewish senator and references to ‘buying Georgia’ evokes antisemitic imagery that is best confined to the dustbin of history. We call upon the Senator to apologize and would be happy to meet with him and his staff to discuss antisemitism as it continues its steady rise at home and abroad.”
Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of ADL’s Southern division, said, “During what has the potential to be a deeply contentious and divisive election cycle, using antisemitism for political gain, both between and within our political parties, risks undermining efforts to join together to combat antisemitic incidents, violence, and other forms of hate. At a time when antisemitism is already at record high levels, we cannot allow this hatred to be fanned and for antisemitism to become a pawn in a political game.
“The use of antisemitic tropes to embarrass political opponents allows antisemites to hide behind politics and it causes something that must remain apolitical – the fight against hate – to become hyper-political. We cannot allow antisemitism to be used to drive a wedge between the Jewish community and others because the cost of unbridled hate in our society is violence. Please, leave antisemitic stereotypes and language out of our state’s efforts to elect our leaders and build a better Georgia.”
Images that distort the size and shape of noses, to depict Jews as being outsiders and evil, date to the late 13th century B.C.E., and have continued to be used more recently, from the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s to white supremacists and other anti-Jewish bigotry online today.
In 1911, anthropologist Maurice Fishberg measured, using calipers, the size and shape of 4,000 Jewish noses in New York City, and found no characteristics distinguishing them from any other group. Fishberg found that only 13 percent of the women and 14 percent of the men that he measured had the stereotyped hook nose, known as hoykedike in Yiddish, while nearly 60 percent of both men and women had noses that he described as straight.
Also critical of the ad was Sander Gilman, a distinguished professor of the liberal arts and sciences as well as professor of psychiatry at Emory University, whose dozens of published works include “The Jew’s Body,” published in 1991.
“I’m neither surprised nor shocked by Perdue’s use of a clearly antisemitic trope. Trump used similar images in 2016 and they are in line with today’s standard right-wing imagery and ideology. Think of the extreme images of George Soros already employed in this year’s campaign season. Perdue knows his rural white voters well. Remember the only lynching of a Jew took place in Marietta,” Gilman told the AJT.