This article has been updated.
After several days spent parsing the meeting between Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmac in Phoenix, news that Hillary Clinton had at last been interviewed by the FBI over the issue of the email server she used at the State Department should have given Donald Trump a welcome break from the spotlight.
And then Trump tweeted.
On Saturday morning, Trump's presidential campaign posted a detail from a recent Fox News poll on the social media network. The survey showed that a majority of Americans -- 58 percent -- thought use of the word "corrupt" to describe the presumptive Democratic nominee was accurate. This, Trump figured, made Clinton the "most corrupt candidate ever," as the tweet suggested. (For what it's worth: 45 percent of Americans thought the word applied to Trump.)
So that was the tweet, which included a picture of Clinton and, to her right, a six-pointed star with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" superimposed over a backdrop of a pile of money.
It didn't take long before people on Twitter noticed that the tweet might be interpreted as anti-Semitic. Trump tweeted the message again, this time replacing the star with a circle to highlight his new title for Clinton. But the damage had been done.
Trump changed his Star of David to a circle. I took a screenshot of the original. pic.twitter.com/TkBxTaAORc
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) July 2, 2016
We don't have a great metric to determine the extent to which news stories get national attention, but we can approximate it using Google searches. Over the course of the past 48 hours, a lot of people have been searching for "Clinton FBI," presumably to learn more about the state of the investigation. Bill Clinton's politically stupid move already meant that his wife was going to get a lot of attention. It was compounded once the FBI interview became public.
But despite that interest, searches for "Star of David" matched "Clinton FBI" Saturday morning, and have been getting about 55 percent as much interest as the Clinton-related term since noon.
How do we know this search interest is because of Trump? Here are the top searches including the term:
- trump star of david
- donald trump star of david
- trump star of david tweet
- donald trump
This is not the first time that Trump has turned a good campaign day into something of a tie. Trump's Twitter account has probably gotten him a lot of free attention, but it's also one of the most common sources for campaign gaffes and screw-ups. (There was the time he tweeted an image including a swastika, for example.)
There's no indication that the use of an apparent Star of David was anything other than a mistake by the Trump campaign. (Update: The same can't be said of the image itself, which the campaign didn't make. Mic.com found that it originally appeared in an anti-Semitic context.) But the mistake came at a time when the political world could have only been talking about Hillary Clinton's troubles.
Update, Monday: But it didn't end there. On Monday morning, immediately after tweeting his July Fourth greeting (complete with #Trump2016 hashtag), Trump raised the issue of the tweet once again.
Dishonest media is trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff's Star, or plain star!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2016
And with that, on the morning of the holiday, a lot more people were interested in learning more about the Star of David than Clinton's problems. That spike at the right is partly about more people using Google as they wake up. It's also in part about Trump's tweet.
The goal of Trump's tweet wasn't really to explain himself or rationalize the tweet; it was to reinforce to his fans that the media is "dishonest." That may be effective. But the worst possible way to get people to stop talking about an issue is to keep talking about it.