"In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion," a spokeswoman said
The negative ad by the Committee to Defend the President, which attacks the former vice president’s record on racial issues, includes Obama’s voice from a recording of his audiobook for his 1995 memoir, Dreams of My Father.
But the ad makes it sound — incorrectly — like Obama is criticizing Biden.
“This despicable ad is straight out of the Republican disinformation playbook, and it’s clearly designed to suppress turnout among minority voters in South Carolina by taking President Obama’s voice out of context and twisting his words to mislead viewers,” spokeswoman Katie Hill said in a statement to PEOPLE. “In the interest of truth in advertising, we are calling on TV stations to take this ad down and stop playing into the hands of bad actors who seek to sow division and confusion among the electorate.”
Obama’s narration was from a portion of his 1995 memoir when he was telling a story about a barber in Chicago who was speaking to him about politicians mistreating black voters.
In a cease-and-desist letter on Wednesday, Obama’s attorney wrote: “This unauthorized use of President Obama’s name, image, likeness, voice and book passage is clearly intended to mislead the target audience of the ad into believing that the passage from the audiobook is a statement that was made by President Barack Obama during his presidency, when it was in fact made by a barber in a completely different context more than 20 years ago.”
The Committee to Defend the President reportedly spent more than $250,000 on negative ads against Biden in South Carolina ahead of Saturday’s crucial Democratic primary vote, according to The Washington Post.
The group also similarly spent big on anti-Biden ads in Nevada ahead of that state’s caucus vote earlier this month, according to the Post.
The Committee to Defend the President did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
In 2017, President Obama’s attorneys similarly reached out to a different group supporting President Donald Trump when that group also took Obama’s words out of context to say Democratic politicians took black voters for granted.
The South Carolina primary on Saturday is all-important for Biden’s presidential campaign, as the former vice president has heavily campaigned in the state and has looked to South Carolina’s largely black electorate to reinvigorate his presidential campaign and give him a win.
Obama chose not to endorse a candidate in the 2020 race, though his team acknowledged his ties to Biden, who was his vice president for eight years.
“President Obama has several friends in this race, including, of course, his own esteemed Vice President,” his spokeswoman said. “He has said he has no plans to endorse in the primary because he believes that in order for Democrats to be successful this fall, voters must choose their nominee.”
• Reporting by ADAM CARLSON