Nikki Fried apologizes after Women’s March slams ‘racially insensitive’ ad

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Women’s March Florida President Cortés Marià Lewis James never gave permission to use her image.

Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried took fire for using an image of a Women’s March Florida leader in advertising without permission. She’s now apologized and pulled the “racially insensitive ad.”

Fried ran digital ads starting last week that pictured Democratic Primary opponent Charlie Crist holding a set of chains on the Florida Senate floor. The ad ran side-by-side with an image of Fried next to Women’s March Florida President Cortés Marià Lewis James.

In one version of the ad, the words “’Chain Gang’ Charlie” appear with Crist’s photo, while Fried’s photo is captioned “Our Justice Champion.”

But Lewis James never consented to use of the photo and hasn’t made an endorsement in the Governor’s race to date.

“The image of Commissioner Fried and Mrs. Lewis, a Black woman, had been cropped from a group photo taken the first time Commissioner Fried met Mrs. Lewis at a rally,” reads a statement issued by Women’s March Florida.

“Mrs. Lewis neither endorsed Commissioner Fried nor gave consent to the Fried Campaign to either use the photo, create an ad with the photo, or use her likeness in any campaign ad. The ad did not identify Mrs. Lewis by name or as a community leader or advocate. Mrs. Lewis was used to disingenuously secure Black votes, and the ad was triggering and extremely offensive to many people in the Black community who called Mrs. Lewis to express the same.”

Fried has run numerous ads showing the picture of Crist holding chains and using the ‘Chain Gang’ Charlie moniker dating back to 1995. That year, Crist as a state Senator sponsored legislation allowing Florida Sheriffs to employ inmates in chain gangs and perform public labor while working in leg irons, as noted by PolitiFact.

Crist, a former Republican Governor-turned-Democratic U.S. Congressman, has faced criticism in following decades for his tough-on-crime policies while still serving in the Florida Legislature.

The ad ran with and without those captions, and with a promoted text post that reads: “Our community deserves better than ‘Chain Gang Charlie.’ ‘Chain Gang Charlie’ earned his nickname fighting to bring chained prison work back to Florida in a disgusting display of bigotry. Meanwhile, Nikki fought for criminal justice reform as a public defender.”

But Fried acknowledged that running the advertisement alongside a picture of a Black community activist crossed a line. After the Women’s March issued a statement, Fried pulled the ad and issued an apology.

“I called Ms. Cortes Maria Lewis James immediately after learning about this racially insensitive ad. I told her I am deeply sorry it happened, and I am,” Fried tweeted. “The ad was removed. It was 100% wrong. I’m so sorry for the pain it caused her and your important organization.”

Facebook analytics show Fried spent as much as $1,500 on that platform, a relatively low amount, to reach women in Florida, according to Christian Ziegler, founder of digital advertising company Microtargeted Media.

“For this ad specifically, the high end of the range shows that this ad received up to 100,000 impressions targeting up to 530,000 individuals over the period of July 15 to July 17. It also appears that they were specifically targeting women ages 35 and up living in Florida with the ad,” said Ziegler, who also serves as Vice Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and is supporting Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ re-election.

Women’s March called for Fried to publicize the retraction of the ad across all digital platforms in which it ran. The statement also suggests that regardless of what Fried said in the tweet, the candidate was made aware of the concern more than a day before the ad stopped appearing.

“Mrs. Lewis was contacted by the communication company that works with the Fried Campaign. Such company attempted to absolve Commissioner Fried of all responsibility for the ad, claiming it was their mistake alone and asking how they could resolve the matter. Mrs. Lewis again insisted on an adequate and meaningful retraction,” the statement reads.

“That night, over 36 hours after Women’s March Florida flagged the ad to the Fried Campaign, the Fried Campaign posted on their Facebook page, where the ad had not even run, ‘An affiliated PC ran an ad through FB/Meta featuring a photo of Nikki with Cortés Marià Lewis without Cortés Marià’s prior approval. We have pulled the ad and would like to apologize and clarify she is not affiliated with the committee or the campaign.’”

A disclaimer on the ad shows it was posted by Florida Consumers First, the political committee affiliated with Fried.

Women’s March asserted in its statement that referring to the committee simply as “an affiliated PC” was an attempt to “avoid any real responsibility as well as its complete failure to address the content of the ad and the harm that it has caused.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Joe Corsin

    July 20, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    Vote RED for skin head phoney religious grifters
    Vote RED for abominable far right propaganda
    Vote RED for low wage slavery and shoveling money to the rich

    • Impeach Biden

      July 20, 2022 at 6:59 pm

      Vote “Blue” if 60k is cheap for an EV vehicle.
      Vote “Blue” if you are okay with sky high gas prices.
      Vote “Blue” if Ilhan Omar is a Patriot.
      Vote “Blue” if feeding, educating, housing, providing medical for millions of illegals is ok.

      • Joe Corsin

        July 20, 2022 at 7:25 pm

        Medical care for illegals? The damn rich Republican grifter hogs don’t even want medical care for the people already here! Wanna keep “the healthcare market” open so people can be grifted to a husk by the likes of fraudster Rick Scott! Are you out of your gd mind? Lay off the pills, booze, and far right propaganda.

      • Jack

        July 21, 2022 at 1:56 pm

        Vote “Blue” if 60k is cheap for an EV vehicle.
        $33.5 to around $40K will get you a nice one
        Vote “Blue” if you are okay with sky high gas prices.
        They’re dropping by the day
        Vote “Blue” if Ilhan Omar is a Patriot.
        Who cares what she thinks?
        Vote “Blue” if feeding, educating, housing, providing medical for millions of illegals is ok.
        Don’t even know how you’d calculate that one but I know of plenty of illegals here in Florida that work a lot harder than some of the lazy Americans I know. Voting red is going to do what exactly?

        You’re not really making much of a case and I’m just a never-trump ex-republican. You should try harder.

  • Michael K. Cantwell

    July 20, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Nikki Fried puts personal ambition over the well-being of Floridians. Instead of running as an incumbent Ag Commissioner, she enters a primary she is not going to win and gives DeSantis sound bites to beat Crist, who has more humanity in his little toe that Fried in her entire body. Crist evolved, Fried is devolving. NO Florida governor came even close to approaching Crist’s record of restoring voting rights Floridians disenfranchised by the post-Civil War racist clause in Florida’s Constitution (overturned by Amendment 4, which was subsequently turned into a poll tax by Repug’s SB7066. In only 4 years Charlie restored the rights of of 155,000 Floridians, twice as many as Jeb Bush restored in 8 years and over 50 times Scott’s number in 8 years. And not just Repugs. Pre-Charlie the most restored in a single year were 16,000 by Bob Graham. Shame on you, Fried, “Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame.”

  • Impeach Biden

    July 20, 2022 at 7:01 pm

    Nikki Fried is a FRAUD. She is going away come November and many of us are looking forward to that mean spirited beotch going away.

    • Joe Corsin

      July 20, 2022 at 7:27 pm

      Vote RED for piss poor working conditions, piss poor pay, being treated like an animal at work so that some hog can get rich and boost his ego.

      Vote RED for blaming Democrats for being unable to clean up GOP messes fast enough every other 4 years

      Vote RED for far right propaganda and dangerous lies

      Vote RED to continue shoveling money to the rich and blaming Democrats for the fallout

      • Impeach Biden

        July 20, 2022 at 8:16 pm

        Vote “Blue” if high grocery prices are ok with you.
        Vote “Blue” if $5 per gallon is chump change for you .
        Vote “Blue” if you favor defunding the police.
        Vote “Blue” if you support criminals robbing stores daily.
        Vote “Blue” if you think Joe Biden is healthy
        Vote “Blue” if you think Kamala got no help from Willie.

        • Joe Corsin

          July 20, 2022 at 9:49 pm

          Vote RED for homophobia, racism, sedition, bioterrorism, far right propaganda, forced birth of meth babies and crack babies (AkA Republican voters), shoveling money to the rich, lunatic theocracy, and far right police state. Vote RED for letting the economy overheat and then blaming inflation on the Dems!

          • Impeach Biden

            July 21, 2022 at 8:21 am

            Vote “Blue” if you want to legalize Joe Corsin’s drug habit.
            Vote “Blue” if high fuel prices are okay.
            Vote “Blue” if you support the Squad.
            Vote “Blue” if you agree with Lohan Omar that some people did something.
            Vote “Blue” if you think Newsom is doing a great job in Kalifornia.
            Vote “Blue” if you want to pay for Joe Corsin’s student debt.

        • Jack

          July 21, 2022 at 2:00 pm

          More Breitbart talking points I see. Can you make a case for voting red that involves actual facts and not identity politics (and no, trickle down economics doesn’t work)?

  • Joe Corsin

    July 21, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    ^ “Impeach Biden” is drunk and on pills.. intellectually grifted to a husk by far right propaganda. Financially being exploited by some Republican hog who makes ten times what he does…but mad at the Dems over it? God help that poop throwing sub ape. He’s been abused…

Comments are closed.


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