U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks Air Force One when he arrives at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona on October 19, 2020.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump's campaign used stock footage from Russia and Slovenia in a digital ad to convince voters that America is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the latest instance of the Trump campaign and pro-Trump groups using footage from other countries in their ads. Trump's campaign seeks to tie Democratic rival Joe Biden to China and blow up his son Hunter Biden's previous businesses. US intelligence agencies say Russia is trying to meddle in the 2020 elections.
The ads with footage from Russia and Slovenia were first reported to CNBC by the democratic super-PAC American Bridge. Trump's campaign spent over $ 4 million on Facebook ads between October 14 and 20, according to the site's ad tracker.
The campaign did not return a request for a comment.
One of the latest Trump campaign Facebook ads includes foreign footage from Russia and Slovenia. It was live on the campaign's Facebook page between October 15-16 and is now inactive, according to the Facebook ad archive.
The ad showed an American flag and then a scene that could appear like a quiet field anywhere in the United States.
The clip of this field is actually from Slovenia, according to the photographer who posted the clip on Pond5, a website that collects photos and videos. The name of the photographer listed on the website is Airstock. CNBC reached out to the photographer through Pond5's news portal and learned that "it was shot in Slovenia and I am from Slovenia".
The same footage is available on other stock media sties such as Depositphotos. These accounts also refer to themselves as coming from Slovenia.
The voiceover ad reads, "Faced with an unparalleled process, America is doing what we always do," as the clip continues in the scene of the field in Slovenia. It goes on to say: "We are taking the opportunity. Thanks to President Trump's courageous actions, we are on the verge of producing a Covid-19 vaccine faster than anyone would have thought possible."
As the ad says: "Together we will fight this virus," a woman who appears to be a doctor appears on the screen. A review of Shutterstock footage reveals that the doctor appears to have come from a report by a photographer with the online name Right Cameraman. Right Cameraman said in an email following a CNBC investigation that the woman posing as a doctor in the clip is "an actress who was shot in a studio in Russia".
The Russian-based photographer also said he was unaware that his video was being used in the ad until CNBC contacted him.
According to data from Facebook's ad archive, the ad shows that it didn't leave many impressions. More than 30% of those who saw the ad were women between the ages of 55 and 64; 27% of them were men of the same age group.
Another digital ad for a Trump campaign featuring stock footage from Russia was previously posted on Google. It seeks to portray Biden as a strong ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping and suggests that this loyalty will result in the loss of American jobs if he becomes president.
A scene of an airplane flying over a Beijing sign has been marked as made in Russia by Pond5. The person who published the scene says on the envato market website that it is based in the Russian Federation.
According to Google's transparency report, which tracks Google ad spend, the ad ran for five days through October 19. It targeted the battlefield state of Michigan and scored up to 100,000 impressions. According to Google, the campaign cost up to $ 1,000.