Harvey Gantt says the "White Hands" ad was "political genius."
In the new documentary "Senator No," the former Charlotte mayor talks about his 1990 race against U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms. Toward the end of the campaign, Helms aired an ad that showed a white pair of hands opening a letter.
"You needed that job, and you were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority because of a racial quota," an ominous voiceover says in the ad. "Is that really fair? Harvey Gantt says it is."
In an interview years later, Gantt, who is black, says the ad played on a latent fear in the South.
"It dealt with people's worst fears," he said. "In one sense, we thought the ad was political genius. In the other sense, we couldn't believe that someone in 1990 would run an ad like that."
Helms argued the ad was "truthful," and said he believed people shouldn't be denied jobs because of their race either.