As millions of fans prepared to watch the Washington Nationals obliterate the Houston Astros on Wednesday, a tweet posted by Major League Baseball umpire Rob Drake caught the attention of an ESPN reporter.
“I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020,” the ump tweeted late Tuesday, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported. Drake deleted the tweet so quickly that a screen shot had not surfaced by early Thursday. It had accompanied another tweet that said: “You can’t do an impeachment inquiry from the basement of Capital Hill without even a vote! What is going on in this country?”
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN the league was “looking into” the tweet referencing President Trump and the House impeachment inquiry. The umpire has since deactivated his Twitter account.
The tweet was the second major off-the-field scandal to hit MLB during its biggest showcase of the year. On Saturday night, Astros Assistant General Manager Brandon Taubman taunted a group of female reporters about a Houston pitcher accused of domestic violence — an incident Sports Illustrated described as “offensive and frightening."
Drake, 50, who has been a full-time MLB ump since 2010, is perhaps best known for a 2011 altercation with St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who was suspended for five games after bumping him and spraying him with spit. Drake co-founded “Calling For Christ,” an umpire training academy in Arizona, where he lives, according to his official MLB profile.
The MLB and Drake did not immediately return a request for comment.
Drake’s tweet suggesting violence over Trump’s increasing political peril echoed a right-wing talking point that began on the extreme fringes of the political spectrum but has grown increasingly common.
The claim that a politically splintered America is careening toward a “civil war” started gaining mainstream attention earlier this year, but it has older roots in far-right political discourse, including the neo-Nazi race-war fantasies that inspired the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
In March, The Washington Post reported that commentators on Fox News and MSNBC had discussed the potential of a second American-on-American conflict, although both pundits later walked back their comments by saying they considered the battle cultural rather than physical.
In September, Trump tweeted a quote from Southern Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress, who said on a Fox News segment, “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President, it will cause a civil warlike fracture in this nation.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson has suggested a federal gun buyback program would lead to armed battles between Americans. On Oct. 11, former House speaker Newt Gingrich told Fox News “we are as close to a cultural civil war as we have been since the 1860s.”
That talk of civil war often goes hand-in-hand with encouragement to stockpile weapons. In March, Rep. St
eve King (R-Iowa), who lost his committee assignments over his comments about white supremacy, posted a meme describing an imagined civil war in which red states would have the advantage of “8 trillion bullets.” Washington state Rep. Matt Shea (R), whose separatist vision spurred him to endorse training children for combat in a biblical war, has urged his followers to collect assault rifles and create ammo stashes.
The talking point has become so common now that Drake wasn’t the only Trump supporter to make headlines Wednesday for talking about civil war and guns.
Rick Wiles, a Florida pastor known for making anti-Semitic comments on his nightly YouTube program, TruNews, also discussed on his show taking up arms against Democrats if Trump is impeached.
“If they take him out, there is going to be violence in America,” Wiles said on Wednesday. “There are people in this country — veterans, cowboys, mountain men, guys that know how to fight — and they’re going to make a decision that the people that did this to Donald Trump are not going to get away with it and they’re going to hunt them down.”