In a puzzling series of actions, YouTube removed a controversial video ad by Georgia gubernatorial hopeful Michael Williams on the grounds that it violates the platform's hate speech policy, only to restore it without explanation a few hours later.
The ad, which was uploaded to YouTube on 15 May 2018 and began running on the Fox News Channel the same day, touts the conservative GOP candidate's anti-immigrant credentials by announcing a so-called "Deportation Bus Tour":
When I'm Governor, we're going to deport criminal illegals in GA by making the 287(g) illegal deportation program STATEWIDE
Vote Republican Michael Williams May 22nd -the only candidate for governor that endorsed Donald Trump - the others wouldn't endorse him against Hillary! pic.twitter.com/fEATVD8GM4
— Michael Williams (@williamsforga) May 15, 2018
The former Trump campaign state co-chair can be seen posing in front of a battleship-grey school bus marked "Follow Me to Mexico" as he vows to "fill this bus with illegals to send them back to where they came from."
A sign on the rear of the bus reads, "Danger! Murderers, rapists, kidnappers, child molestors [sic], and other criminals on board."
According to a campaign press release, it will make stops in several of the state's "dangerous" sanctuary cities (those that restrict local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration authorities while offering safe harbor to "illegal aliens"):
Senator Michael Williams, Former Georgia Co-Chair for the Trump Campaign and Republican candidate for Governor, announced the Michael Williams Deportation Bus Tour this afternoon to shine a light on the dangers of sanctuary cities and the overwhelming problem of illegal immigration.
The Michael Williams Deportation Bus Tour kicks off Wednesday, May 16 by visiting each of Georgia’s dangerous sanctuary cities: Clarkston, Decatur, and Athens. Throughout his bus tour of sanctuary cities, Williams will expose how dangerous illegal aliens ruin local economies, cost American jobs, increase healthcare costs, and lower education standards.
Williams was the first elected official in Georgia to endorse Donald Trump and he served as the Trump campaign Georgia Co-Chair and he traveled across the nation as an official campaign surrogate. He is the most outspoken anti-illegal candidate in Georgia’s history. Williams champions implementing the federal 287(g) deportation program in every Georgia county to deputize officers as ICE agents. His anti-illegal alien program would expedite the deportation process and send a clear message to illegal communities that they are not welcomed in Georgia.
"We’re not just going to track them and watch them roam around our state," Williams threatens in the ad. "We’re going to put them on this bus and send ‘em home."
YouTube removed the video less than 24 hours after it was posted, replacing it with a notice stating that it was in violation of their hate speech policy (most likely after being reported as such by users):
Although neither Williams nor his campaign responded to our requests for comment, a hastily issued newsletter attempted to capitalize on what it termed the "banning" of the video by framing it as an attempt to silence the candidate:
The liberal media and liberal companies can't silence us. We will keep fighting against radical liberalism and illegal aliens, but I need your help. Donate to my campaign. 100% of your donation will fund more television and radio advertisements.
Georgia can't afford eight years of bought-and-paid-for leadership. Donate to elect a pro-Trump conservative.
The point was moot within a few hours, however, when access to the video was quietly restored. (We reached out to YouTube and its parent company, Google, for an explanation, but have yet to receive a reply.)
Meanwhile, Williams and the "Deportation Bus" arrived for their first scheduled stop at a refugee center in Clarkston, Georgia, where they were swarmed by supporters and detractors alike:
A large crowd of counter demonstrators has surrounded Michael Williams' Deportation Bus tour. Williams has not come out of his RV. His staff is shuttling reporters inside. pic.twitter.com/DPdKDvhTls
— Richard Elliot (@RElliotWSB) May 16, 2018
A 27 April Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll showed Williams trailing badly in the race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, with only 3.2 percent of likely voters expressing support.
The statewide primary election will be held on 22 May.