Rep. Tom Tancredo defended a controversial TV ad Tuesday that depicted a hooded terrorist blowing up a shopping mall, despite allegations by some that the congressman was engaging in fear-mongering.
The 30-second spot, which has started running in Iowa, links a potential terrorist attack to U.S. immigration policy, with a voice condemning porous borders and "spineless politicians who refuse to defend our borders against those who kill."
It ends with a man leaving a backpack in a shopping area before a loud explosion is heard, followed by the words "Tancredo ... before it's too late."
"There are people in this country who are preaching hatred from mosques. There are people who are planning to do bad things beyond getting the job that other Americans don't want," Tancredo said in a phone interview.
Along with appearing in Iowa through the Jan. 3 caucuses, the ad is slated to run in New Hampshire and on yet-to-be-named national networks.
Tancredo campaign spokesperson Alan Moore said that he didn't know the specific cost of "Tough on Terror" but that more than $1 million was planned for ads in general.
Tancredo, R-Colo., a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, said his goal was not to induce fear but that it was important for people to be aware of the threat.
Tancredo's campaign chairwoman, Bay Buchanan, pointed to a recent FBI tip that al-Qaeda might be planning attacks at shopping malls in Los Angeles and Chicago, even though federal officials later downplayed the report.
"So what do we do, wait until we actually see the (terrorists)?" Buchanan said.
Critics of the ad, however, accused Tancredo of political pandering and expressed concern about a potential backlash against minority communities.
"He's obviously seeking to exploit the unfortunately rising level of anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society to promote his own political agenda," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the advocacy group Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Several analysts said the spot invoked memories of President Lyndon Johnson's 1964 "Daisy" ad, where images of a girl picking daisies are followed by those of a mushroom cloud to suggest Barry Goldwater would start a nuclear war.
Like Johnson's piece, many said Tancredo's video likely would pressure other candidates to address an issue they might have avoided otherwise. (MORE)