Pelosi Slams Facebook Over Trump Ad That Could Be Confused for Census
WASHINGTON – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sharply criticized Facebook on Thursday for allowing President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign to run an ad that some might confuse for the upcoming 2020 census.
The U.S. Census Bureau is set to launch the once-a-decade head count on Monday with a kickoff event in Atlanta. The online census form will go live next Thursday.
Households will then have several weeks to respond to the census online, by phone or on paper.
Beginning in May, census takers, also known as enumerators, will go door to door across the country to count people that have not responded.
But at a Capitol Hill news conference held by members of the black, Hispanic and Asian caucuses, also known as the Congressional Tri-Caucus, Pelosi said the Trump campaign Facebook ad, which directs people to an online survey, is “an absolute lie,” intentionally meant to be mistaken for the actual census questionnaire.
“The Republicans have put out … something that says, ‘This is an official document. Do not tear up. Fill it out,'” she said, adding that she is particularly annoyed with Facebook, which has refused to take the ad down.
“I know the profit motive is their business model, but it should not come at the cost of counting who is in our country, so that we can provide the services,” Pelosi said.
“The beautiful diversity of America is what this Administration fears,” the speaker continued. “They want us undercounted and misrepresented on Facebook, and Facebook is saying that misrepresentation is consistent with their policy – of misrepresentation.”
The ad says, “President Trump needs you to take the Official 2020 Congressional District Census today.” Clicking on a red button saying “Take the Survey” leads to a website with questions asking visitors about party affiliation, whether they intend to support Trump and which media organizations they get their information from, among other questions.
Similar mailings have been distributed around the U.S.
The upcoming census has been a subject of mistrust and controversy ever since the Trump administration sought to include a citizenship question.
After much hemming and hawing, the administration claimed the question was being added to aid the Justice Department in enforcing a law that protects minority voters’ access to the ballot box.
But the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the inclusion of the question last June, saying the justification of the White House “seems to have been contrived.”
Opponents argued it would have intimidated immigrants, Hispanics and others from participating in the once-a-decade head count that determines how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is allocated and how many congressional seats each state gets.
These issues were on the mind of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who said on Thursday that “our Founding Fathers did not say every ‘citizen,’ every ‘property owner,’ every ‘white person’ … they said that ‘every person’ ought to be counted.”
“Why? Because they knew it was critical for the successful operations of government, for the distribution of revenues from the federal government to the local governments to assist every American, that everybody be counted, and we know where they lived, what community they lived [in],” he said.
Hoyer also sought to assure those nervous about participating in the census that the law provides the information gathered can be used for nothing other than counting people.
He then quoted Cesar Chavez, the late civil rights and farm worker leader, who said what is needed in America is not a perfect system, but a system in which we have perfect participation.
“An undercount would mean that we don’t accurately distribute funds,” Hoyer said. “I am proud to stand with my colleagues to urge every single person who lives … in my district, in my state, in my country to make sure that when they get the form, respond in whatever way they feel most comfortable – paper, telephone, electronic device. Respond so that people will be counted.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Wednesday that more than 2.6 million nationwide have applied to be census takers, and that the Census Bureau intends to hire up to 500,000 of them.
Facebook did not immediately respond to an emailed request for a response to Pelosi’s comments.
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