Sen. Joni Ernst's new ad says it's 'offensive' to say racism is real

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The ad features a former GOP politician who defended racial profiling in law enforcement.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) released a new ad Friday attacking her opponent for acknowledging that systematic racism exists.

The ad features a former Republican state lawmaker with a dismal record on racial issues.

The 30-second spot features footage of two men — identified only as "Justin, law enforcement officer" and "Clel, retired Iowa State Patrol" — complaining that Democratic businesswoman Theresa Greenfield had said there was "systemic racism in our police."

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The ad does not note that "Clel" is former state Rep. Clel Baudler, a Republican who served in the Iowa Legislature from 1999 to 2019.

"Being a cop these days is hard enough, so it doesn't help when liberals like Theresa Greenfield call us racist," Justin, the police officer, says in the spot.

"That's offensive," Baudler adds. "Theresa Greenfield lied about Iowa law enforcement."

Contrary to the ad's accusations, Greenfield has never said all cops are racist.

In August, Greenfield told a local news outlet that she did not support defunding the police, but supported reforms including anti-bias and deescalation training "to address systemic racism, not only in our policing, but in our housing policies and systems, in education, in health care, in financing, lending, and so much more."

At a debate last month, Greenfield acknowledged racism's deep roots in the United States.

"We have systemic racism in all of our systems and have for generations, including our policing system, but that is not saying that our police officers are racist," Greenfield said.

The race between Greenfield and Ernst is close, with Greenfield holding a narrow lead.

Ernst herself has backed some police reform measures, though she says she doesn't see racism as a systemic problem.

Over the summer, as protesters across the country spoke out against the death of George Floyd, Ernst met with Black community leaders in Des Moines to listen to their concerns.

"She was nice and charming while she was there, but obviously she didn’t listen," one meeting attendee told Iowa Starting Line. "If she did listen, obviously she dismissed it almost immediately when she left."

Ernst's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In June, the Associated Press analyzed internal data from Iowa Department of Public Safety. In 2018 and 2019, Black people made up just 4% of Iowa's population, but made up 24% of those who had force used against them by police, according to the department's annual use of force reports for those years. The report also found that Black Iowans made up 30% of those who had a gun pointed at them by police in 2019.

During his time in office, Baudler was one of the legislature's most vocal opponents of a bipartisan ban on racial profiling. "It doesn't make any difference whether he's white, green or black," Baudler argued in 2018. "They say it's an information-gathering tool. It's not. It's an anti-law enforcement tool."

That same year, when Baudler was chair of the Iowa House Public Safety Committee, Baudler made headlines for using underhanded tactics to block the public from attending a hearing on a bill to deny state funds to "sanctuary cities" that do not use their local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

"I threw 11 people out of here one at a time [when a similar bill came up last year]," he told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier after blocking off nearly every seat in the hearing room. "We don't want a repeat."

In 2010, Baudler staged a political stunt in an attempt to demonstrate the supposed dangers of medical marijuana — and used a racial slur against Asian Americans in the process. For the stunt, he traveled to California and tried to illegally obtain a medical marijuana card by lying to a doctor, who was Asian American. In a letter describing his trip, Baudler bragged that he received a prescription from "an Oriental 'doctor'" who "only spoke broken English."

Baudler could not be reached for comment at the time of this story's publication.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.