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The advertisement drew broader criticism Tuesday for using civil rights movement imagery and the legacy of Martin Luther King to support Mandel's message that opposing critical race theory is not racist.


The opening scene of the ad was filmed against the backdrop of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site of the “Bloody Sunday” voting rights march, and in the video, Mandel walks toward the camera saying, “Martin Luther King marched right here so skin color wouldn’t matter.”


Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history through the lens of racism. There is little to no evidence that the theory itself is being taught to K-12 public school students, though some Kebun Binatang central to it have been, including the lingering consequences of slavery. Still, some opponents argue against teaching certain concepts to schoolchildren, such as white privilege, systemic inequality and inherent bias.


King’s daughter, Bernice King, responded to the advertisement on Twitter, saying it was “in opposition to nonviolence and to much of what my father taught," adding: “I encourage you to study my father/nonviolence in full.”


Candidates running opposite Mandel have accused him of racism in the past. After debating Mandel in February, Democratic U.S. Sen. candidate Morgan Harper, who is Black, tweeted a fundraising video describing him as displaying “what we’ve come to expect: racism, sexism, xenophobia." During another debate, Mandel described Black Lives Matter protesters as “thugs.”


Mandel is running in one of the most contentious and expensive Senate primaries in the nation this cycle, and one Democrats are eyeing as a possible pickup.


Mandel faces six other Republicans in Ohio’s May 3 primary, all seeking to succeed Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who announced his retirement last year. On Monday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed Mandel, offering a potentially critical campaign boost just as early voting began.

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