Reality Check: Attack ad pins Barnes to liberal ‘Squad’

MADISON, Wis. — A new political ad attacking U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes and tying him to some of the most liberal members of Congress, sometimes called the “Squad,” caught the attention of our viewers who asked us to look into that ad’s claims.

Most of the claims in the ad are subjective, like that “the radical left hate America” or that “Mandela Barnes is a radical leftist.” Radical, for instance, will mean different things to different people.

We can, however, look into some of the claims the ad makes that Barnes supports a “woke agenda.”

The ad shows an image of trans collegiate swimmer Lia Thomas over the line describing a “radical woke agenda.” Thomas and the NCAA received criticism for allowing Thomas to swim in the women’s competition.

The claim that Barnes supports trans rights is true — the candidate has repeatedly advocated for trans rights and specifically for trans youth.

The ad also includes the line “they indoctrinate our children to hate America,” which could be an allusion to efforts to teach about race in classrooms — what is sometimes called critical race theory, though that refers specifically to a college-level curriculum.

The ad plays a clip of Barnes speaking at an event, saying: “The founding of this nation? Awful.”

News 3 Now looked at the video the ad uses, and it is Barnes’ own words, but needs some clarification. Barnes was talking about changes in the country since its founding — namely things like slavery. His reference to the founding of the country is in that context — talking about the practices in place during the country’s founding.

The ad was paid for by the Johnson campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is running in the Madison market.

How we got here: The sources used in this Reality Check

Barnes’ statements on trans rights are pretty broad, but a significant sampling can be found through a search of his Twitter profile. The full results of that search can be found here.

Barnes backs trans youth in this tweet and a clip from a primary debate, which can be found here.

The full video in which Barnes says “the founding of this nation? Awful.” was posted by Dan O’Donnell, a conservative talk radio host. That video can be found here.

News 3 Now used footage from the ad that came directly from the station’s airwaves. For full transparency, a transcript of the ad is provided below:

“The Radical Left hate America and riot in our streets. They indoctrinate our children to hate America, stoking fear and envy with their lies and deceptions. Their radical woke agenda and divisive politics are tearing our country apart. Here’s Mandela Barnes: ‘The founding of this nation? Awful!’. Mandela Barnes is a radical leftist, he supports their woke agenda that’s causing you and your family so much pain. I’m Ron Johnson and I approve this message.”

You can see more Reality Checks of political ads running locally here.