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In April 2022, U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel, R-Ohio, released a new campaign ad that featured video footage of him condemning critical race theory while standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site of a series of civil rights marches during March 1965. While much of the social media chatter around the ad focused on Mandel’s choice of location, (Martin Luther King’s daughter Bernice, among others, criticized the ad), other social media users promoted the specious claim that Mandel’s face had been digitally overlaid onto a Black U.S. Marine’s body during a different segment of the ad.
There’s no truth to this claim. Mandel’s face was not pasted onto a Black Marine’s body. This is a genuine photograph of Mandel, who enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves in 2000 and served at least two tours as an intelligence specialist in Iraq, posing with five fellow Marines.
The claim that the producers of the ad pasted Mandel’s face onto a Black Marine’s body is based almost entirely on third-party observations that the skin tone of Mandel’s face in the photo appears lighter than the skin tone of his hands. No evidence (such as an unaltered photo showing six Black Marines instead of five Black Marines plus Mandel) has emerged to prove that Mandel was not originally in the photograph.
It’s possible that the photo was altered in another respect, however. Politico reporter Natalie Allison obtained the original and posted it on Twitter for comparison. While there appears to be a significant color difference between Mandel’s face and his hands in the version that appeared in the campaign ad, this color difference is far less noticeable in the original photograph (at right in the tweet below):
You folks asked if Josh Mandel’s campaign photoshopped his head onto a Black man, and I looked for answers. They did not, the campaign says. It appears a darkening filter was used on the ad. Here’s the original photo for comparison. pic.twitter.com/7kz5nYseje
— Natalie Allison (@natalie_allison) April 5, 2022
We reached out to Mandel’s campaign for additional information but have yet to hear back. We will update this article if more information becomes available.
Here is Mandel’s full campaign ad. The photo in question can be seen around the eight-second mark:
Dale, Daniel. “Fact Check: Ad from Ohio Republican Josh Mandel Falsely Claims Party Rival Mike Gibbons Said Military Service Isn’t Real Work.” CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2022/04/01/politics/fact-check-josh-mandel-ad-mike-gibbons-military-real-work/index.html. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.
Frauenfelder, Mark. “‘Pro-God, Pro-Gun, Pro-Trump’ Candidate Seems to Be Pro-Photoshop, Too.” Boing Boing, 6 Apr. 2022, https://boingboing.net/2022/04/05/pro-god-pro-gun-pro-trump-candidate-seems-to-be-pro-photoshop-too.html.
Medina, Jennifer, and Lisa Lerer. “How Josh Mandel, Son of Suburban Ohio, Became a Right-Wing Warrior.” The New York Times, 15 Feb. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/15/us/josh-mandel-ohio-trump.html.
Thomas, Jake. “MLK’s Daughter Schools Senate Candidate Josh Mandel on Her Father’s Legacy.” Newsweek, 5 Apr. 2022, https://www.newsweek.com/mlks-daughter-schools-senate-candidate-josh-mandel-her-fathers-legacy-1695366.