President Trump promoted a video Sunday that includes a Trump supporter shouting “white power” at counterprotesters, calling his supporters at the Florida retirement community where the demonstration occurred “great people.”
But that hasn’t quelled the outrage over the posting. “There’s no question: He should not have retweeted it; he should just take it down,” Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.), the only black Republican senator, said Sunday morning, shortly before the tweet was deleted.
“I think it’s indefensible,” Scott said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The video captures a pro-Trump golf cart parade from June 14, the president’s birthday. It was shot at the Villages, a retirement community in central Florida.
The clip opens with an elderly white man in a golf cart decorated with Trump signs being heckled by a counterprotester, who asks: “Where’s your white hood?” The man responds by twice saying “white power,” shaking a raised fist as a woman seated beside him chants “Trump! Trump!”
Some of the counterprotesters in the Florida video hold signs supporting former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
In a message shared with the clip, Trump praised his supporters. “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!” Trump wrote.
The “great people” language recalls his description of some who attended a 2017 white supremacist march in Charlottesville as “very fine people.”
Trump’s tweet was up for at least 90 minutes, during which time Trump left the White House for a golf date at his suburban Trump National club. It was removed some time before 11:30 a.m.
Asked about tweet, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said: “President Trump is a big fan of the Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”
The language in the clip is loud and distinct, and it occurs just seconds into the video.
Trump’s tweet drew swift condemnation Sunday. Biden linked the president’s tweet to Charlottesville, writing: “Today the President shared a video of people shouting ‘white power’ and said they were ‘great.’ Just like he did after Charlottesville. We’re in a battle for the soul of the nation — and the President has picked a side. But make no mistake: it’s a battle we will win.”
“This isn’t ‘racially charged’, ‘racially tinged’ or sparked by ‘racial anxiety,’ ” former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro, a Democrat, tweeted. “This is racist, white supremacist language amplified by the President of the United States.”
Conservative writer and Trump ally Ryan Saavedra called the Trump tweet “stupid” and a distraction.
“Had dinner with a bunch of Trump supporters last week who plan on voting for him in 2020. There is 1-thing they *all* agreed on: He needs to stop with the stupid tweets and comments. A lot of his supporters are getting fatigued by the constant drama,” Saavedra tweeted.
But Trump has continued to embrace racist and polarizing language, a strategy that energizes his most loyal supporters but that risks alienating the groups Trump needs for reelection, including suburban women and independents.
This incident also follows a pattern of the president or his allies adopting or promoting offensive language or symbolism and then pulling back, sometimes with a claim of ignorance.
At two recent political events, Trump referred to the deadly novel coronavirus as the “kung flu,” a slur against Asians that drew raucous cheers and laughter from the audience.
He scheduled his first big political rally since the coronavirus shutdown in Tulsa on Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of black slaves. The rally was later rescheduled to June 20.
Trump said he had made the unofficial holiday “very famous.” Critics charged that the location of Tulsa was a wink to white nationalism. The city was the site of the one of the most horrific acts of racial violence in American history, the 1921 massacre of black residents and the torching of a prosperous black business district.
Facebook deactivated dozens of ads placed by Trump’s reelection campaign earlier this month, after viewers complained that the ads included a symbol once used by the Nazis to designate political prisoners in concentration camps.
The inverted red triangle marking appeared as part of the campaign’s online salvo against what it calls mobs and “far-left groups.” The symbol appeared in paid posts sponsored by Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as by the “Team Trump” campaign page.
A red inverted triangle was used in the 1930s to identify Communists, Social Democrats, liberals, Freemasons and other members of opposition parties incarcerated by the Nazis.
The badge forced on Jewish political prisoners, by contrast, featured a yellow triangle overlaid by a red triangle to resemble a Star of David.
The campaign said the symbol was meant only to refer to antifa, short for the sometimes-anarchist “anti-fascist” movement.
Trump has also said he will block any effort to change the names of military bases named for Confederate generals. He has defended memorials and statues that honor Confederate leaders, as well as other historical figures who were racists and slaveholders.
“Very sad to see States allowing roving gangs of wise guys, anarchists & looters, many of them having no idea what they are doing, indiscriminately ripping down our statues and monuments to the past,” Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Some are great works of art, but all represent our History & Heritage, both the good and the bad. It is important for us to understand and remember, even in turbulent and difficult times, and learn from them. Knowledge comes from the most unusual of places!”
A Republican congressman allied with Trump said Tuesday that those aligned with Black Lives Matter in protest of police brutality are “at war” with “western culture.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which documents the language of hate groups, has said that terms such as “heritage” or “Western culture” are often used by white nationalists as slightly more palatable stand-in terms for white supremacy.
Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) made the comment on Facebook in response to a news article about the activist Shaun King, who said last week that murals and statues that depict Jesus as white should be torn down. Numerous Confederate monuments have come down recently at the hands of protesters or under orders from local officials.
“The Democrat ‘Black Lives Matter’ Party, along with armies of rioters, are at war with our country, our beliefs and western culture,” Hagedorn wrote Tuesday. “Their radical movement is orchestrated and growing. We must never let them take power. We must stand up and defend our country, our nation’s identity, our Judeo-Christian values and our American way of life.”