This story has been updated.
Donald Trump Jr., an adviser and surrogate for his father's presidential campaign, told followers on Instagram this weekend that he'd "made the cut" as one of the "deplorables" denounced by Hillary Clinton — and shared an image that portrayed Donald Trump and his running mate alongside fringe radio host Alex Jones and a cartoon icon associated with the white nationalist alt-right.
"The Deplorables" -- a takeoff on "The Expendables," the revivalist action series that teams up fading movie stars with younger action heroes -- was shared first on Saturday afternoon by on-again, off-again Trump adviser Roger Stone. "I am so proud to be one of the Deplorables," Stone said, in a message shared more than 3,800 times.
— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) September 10, 2016
Trump Jr. shared the image seven hours later, explaining that it had been sent by a friend. "All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump," wrote Trump Jr., "and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington."
But it was the lineup around the Trumps that drew attention. The image included Jones, a conspiracy theorist, in mid-scream, alongside Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos and the cartoon frog Pepe. The latter, as the Daily Beast's Olivia Nuzzi reported in May, had been adopted by anonymous alt-right followers as a sort of mascot, sometimes portrayed in a Nazi get-up, other times with skinhead tattoos.
"Most memes are ephemeral by nature, but Pepe is not,” one of the alt-right trolls told Nuzzi. “He’s a reflection of our souls, to most of us."
The Instragam post was only the latest instance in which Trump or his aides have shared messages associated with or distributed by members of the alt-right, a loosely organized movement of white conservatives who view racial and national identity as the organizing principles of politics.
In July, Trump repeatedly defended himself for retweeting an image describing Clinton as “crooked” and the “most corrupt candidate ever” that included a red Star of David shape slapped onto a bed of $100 bills. The image, widely condemned as anti-Semitic, had its roots in the online white supremacist movement but Trump dismissed it as "just a star."
Yiannopoulos says he is not a member of the alt-right but has sympathetically explained its rise and relevance to readers of Breitbart, whose former chief executive, Stephen K. Bannon, is now chief executive of Trump's campaign. Yiannopoulous has also shared in-jokes and memes that have targeted liberals and feminists. Jones, who endorsed Trump last year and gave him a sympathetic interview, has also marshaled his show and website to promote theories about Clinton's health or the deaths of people in Democratic Party politics and is widely known for claiming that the 9-11 attacks were a U.S. government conspiracy.
A friend sent me this. Apparently I made the cut as one of the Deplorables😂😂😂 All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington. He's fighting for you and won't ever quit. Thanks for your trust! #trump2016 #maga #makeamericagreatagain #basketofdeplorables
Trump's campaign did not respond to a question about the Instagram post.
Clinton said at a fundraiser Friday that “half” of Trump supporters were in a “basket of deplorables” that held bigoted views. She later apologized for the proportional estimate, but stuck to the assertion that Trump was clearly attracting such support.
Trump and his surrogates have sharply attacked Clinton for the remarks. In a Saturday afternoon press call with reporters, Trump surrogate Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) struggled to refute the claim that some Trump supporters advanced racist views.
"If you were to use Hillary Clinton's logic, then 4.1 million veterans, [some] percent of all veterans, would then fit Hillary's description," Blackburn said. "I don't think that these are people that you would say are in any kind of basket."
Later on Saturday, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who is running for Senate in Louisiana after a decade of declining influence, shared his own version of the "Deplorables" meme. He excised most of those in the first meme in favor of Bannon, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller, author Ann Coulter and himself. He also added a catchphrase: "Anti-racists is a code word for anti-white."