Willie Horton Ad Maker Targets Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s reelection prospects haven’t been looking so hot lately. Polls show he’s trailing all three GOP contenders by at least 40 percent, and that because he is well-known to Nevada voters, there aren’t a lot of undecideds out there. As if things couldn’t get worse, Reid is about to get hit with a new slew of TV ads created by Floyd Brown, the genius behind the infamous Willie Horton ad that brought down the presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis in 1988. A staunch Republican and founder of the conservative advocacy group Citizens United, Brown is a longtime practitioner of political “dark arts.” He currently heads up the Western Center for Journalism, a conservative news outfit that spent the ’90s “investigating” the suicide of Clinton White House counsel Vince Foster.  

The new Reid ads try to link the majority leader to the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is the business partner of Mirage hotel CEO James Murren. Murren has been a vocal Reid supporter, in large part because Reid apparently pressured banks to finance a failing $8.5 billion project Murren was building in downtown Las Vegas, a move that Murren has claimed saved 12,000 jobs. Brown’s new ad suggests that Al Maktoum has used slave labor to build similar projects in Dubai, and that now “both the slave bosses and the union bosses want Harry Reid reelected. Go figure.”


The ad is paid for by two political action committees, the Republican Majority Campaign, headed by the radical right-winger and proponent of “birther” conspiracy theories, Gary Kreep, and the Legacy Committee, run by James Lacy, a board member of the American Conservative Union. The PACs have also launched a new anti-Reid website to focus on Reid’s ties to the gambling industry and alleged political corruption. Kreep and Brown will appear at a press conference Monday to launch the new TV ads, which are airing independently of any GOP campaigns. Whether Brown will score a direct hit the way he did in 1988 is anybody’s guess, but his involvement in the campaign can’t be good news for Reid.



Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Give a Year of the Truth

at our special holiday rate

just $12

Order Now

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.