The Trump campaign’s fundraising arm released a digital ad on Sept. 11 asking people to “support our troops” – but upon closer look, the ad actually uses a stock photo of Russian fighter jets and Russian models dressed up like soldiers. Yikes.
The ad, which first appeared on Sept. 8 and ran until Sept. 12, was made and published by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee. It shows the silhouettes of three soldiers walking while a fighter jet soars above them.
Pierre Sprey, who helped design both the F-16 and A-10 planes for the U.S. Air Force said, “That’s definitely a MiG-29,” and added, “I’m glad to see it’s supporting our troops.”
He noted some specifics of the aircraft, including the angle of the tail and the spacing of the engines.
Ruslan Pukhov is the Director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies in Moscow and he also confirmed that the planes are Russian MiG-29s. He added that the soldier on the right in the ad is also carrying an AK-74 assault rifle.
The Trump Make America Great Again Committee is run by two separate entities- The Trump Campaign, and the Republican National Committee and most of the smaller and digital donations it raises goes directly to the campaign.
The image featured in the ad is readily available on Shutterstock.com under the title “Military silhouettes of soldiers and airforce against the backdrop of sunset sky.” BPTU is listed as the creator of the image, and says it is based in Andorra.
After the story broke, the image creator, Arthur Zakirov, confirmed that it shows a 3D model of a MiG-29, and that the soldiers were indeed Russian models. He said it was created five years ago and composed of three different countries featuring a Russian sky, Greek mountains and French ground.
Zakirov, a 34-year-old oil company analyst who does photography as a hobby said, “This is a completely recreated scene from various photographs of mine.” He is based in the Russian city of Perm, which is about 700 miles from Moscow.
He joked, “Today you hear about the Kremlin’s hand in U.S. politics. Tomorrow you are this hand,” saying he found it “pretty funny” to have his photo in a Trump fundraising ad.
He blamed the campaign for “bad fact-checking” and said, “Everything happened through inattention.”
The MiG-29 is the Russians’ main fighter jet and has been sold all over the world after having first flown in 1977. Famously developed during the Cold War to counter the American jets F-15 and F-16, the U.S. even managed to obtain a few to engage in war games.
Russia has also exported them to North Korea, Syria, India and Uzbekistan. Iran even acquired 68 of the MiG-29s at the end of the Soviet Union. More recently, the U.S. bought 21 “nuclear-capable” MiG-29 planes from Moldova to keep Iran from getting their hands on them .
Although the Trump campaign has not commented on this particular flub, in the past, politicians have landed in trouble for running ads or content that featured Russian (or other countries’) military equipment.