Philip Levine's campaign expects to challenge a new "misleading" attack ad that uses stock footage of polluted waters from around the globe to question the former Miami Beach mayor's environmental record.
The commercial, paid for by Jeff Greene's gubernatorial campaign, begins by comparing an image of Greene's opponent — "This is Philip Levine" — to an image of Biscayne Bay — "This is a latrine."
The Greene campaign has consistently criticized Levine's record on keeping the bay clean, loosely citing a 2016 study by researchers from FIU, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Miami and Nova Southeastern University that showed the city's flood pumps had been flushing tidal and rainwater into the bay with increased levels of fecal bacteria.
Unflattering newspaper headlines then flash on the screen as especially putrid images of polluted water are seen in the background. The problem, Levine's campaign points out, is that those images are not from Biscayne Bay.
Instead, the campaign said, Greene's ad uses three stock videos from Asia, Serbia and Russia to demonstrate what it says is the squalor of the bay. The commercial sandwiches the foreign footage between two identical images of a relatively lightly polluted Biscayne Bay.
The stock footage can be found on the stock photography website Pond5.com, which lists the locations for each clip.
"We never claimed the images were from Biscayne Bay," Greene spokeswoman Claire VanSusteren told the Miami Herald, adding that the footage was meant as a visual aid. "But the newspaper headlines speak for themselves."
Greene, who has spent about $18 million of his own money on his campaign, has gone back and forth with Levine after a period of tranquility in the now hotly contested Democratic primary.
He has criticized Levine for attacking the 2016 study and the Miami Herald, which reported on it. The city disputed the "snapshot" sampling as overblown and Levine called it "sloppy science combined with sloppy journalism."
"Philip Levine has tried to bully scientists and the press over his pump debacle," VanSusteren said. "Jeff Greene won't be bullied."
Christian Ulvert, a senior Levine adviser, slammed what he called a "false narrative" being perpetuated by Greene, and said the campaign expected to challenge the commercial with TV stations. He said using foreign images to prove a point can potentially mislead voters.
"To put images of situations that have happened in foreign countries is not only outrageous but it is the height of hypocrisy," Ulvert said. "What you are seeing is not what happened."
Saturday, Levine's campaign put out a new ad challenging Greene. The commercial will run digitally and on TV, the campaign says.
"We took on sea-level rise like no other city in the world. We've been honored like no other city in the world," Levine says in the ad, making reference to his being awarded the Legion of Honor by the president of France for his "commitment to raise awareness about climate change."
Levine has aggressively attacked rising seas, investing $500 million in pumps and infrastructure to keep the city above water, but has acknowledged that the planning of the city's flooding projects could have been better.
"This election," Levine continues, "is about getting things done, and about stopping climate change deniers like Donald Trump and Rick Scott."
— This article was written by Martin Vassolo