Trump un­der fire from all sides after retweet with call for ‘white power’

The Guardian - - World - Tom McCarthy

Don­ald Trump was un­der fire from across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum yes­ter­day after retweet­ing a video show­ing a sup­porter shout­ing: “White power.” The pres­i­dent’s retweet was deleted after it drew fierce crit­i­cism, in­clud­ing from Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole African Amer­i­can Repub­li­can in the Se­nate.

“There’s no ques­tion that he should not have retweeted it and he should just take it down,” Scott told CNN’s State of the Union. “It was so pro­fan­ity laced, the en­tire thing was of­fen­sive. Cer­tainly, the com­ment about the white power was of­fen­sive. It’s in­de­fen­si­ble. We should take it down.”

Trump left the tweet, fea­tur­ing video of ar­gu­ments among res­i­dents of The Vil­lages, a pre­dom­i­nantly white and con­ser­va­tive re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Florida, posted on his Twit­ter feed for nearly four hours. “Thank you to the great peo­ple of The Vil­lages,” Trump tweeted about the footage, which be­gins with a white man driv­ing a golf cart with a “Trump 2020” sign spout­ing racist rhetoric at white anti-Trump pro­test­ers.

White House deputy press sec­re­tary Judd Deere claimed that Trump had not heard the man scream­ing “white power” at the start of the video. “Pres­i­dent Trump is a big fan of The Vil­lages,” Deere said. “He did not hear the one state­ment made on the video.”

Cody Keenan, a for­mer speech­writer for Barack Obama, said the tweet was part of Trump’s re-elec­tion strat­egy. “How ‘bout we just skip past the kabuki where White House staff emails re­porters anony­mously to say they had noth­ing to do with it, ev­ery [Repub­li­can] sen­a­tor pre­tends they haven’t seen it, and just ac­cept that they’re all part of the Trump 2020 white power Covid rally ‘til the end,” Keenan tweeted.

Trump sent the tweet as he faces a dif­fi­cult re-elec­tion bid, which in part in­volves a strug­gle to shore up sup­port among his base of white and evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian vot­ers. Polls in­di­cate that a ma­jor­ity of that de­mo­graphic has sup­ported protests over the killing last month of Ge­orge Floyd, an African Amer­i­can man, by a white po­lice of­fi­cer in Min­neapo­lis, Min­nesota.

Yet Trump has leaned into his op­po­si­tion to the protests, threat­en­ing to de­ploy the US mil­i­tary in Amer­i­can ci­ties, promis­ing stiff penal­ties for de­fac­ing stat­ues, tweet­ing “when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts” – a phrase fa­mously used in the 1960s by a Mi­ami po­lice chief long ac­cused of big­otry – and declar­ing him­self the pres­i­dent of “law and or­der”.

Yes­ter­day Trump was again ac­cused of stok­ing racial ten­sions. Fol­low­ing his retweet of footage from The Vil­lages, Trump sent a tweet in all caps that said “the vast silent ma­jor­ity is alive and well!!” The phrase “silent ma­jor­ity” is as­so­ci­ated with Richard Nixon’s po­lit­i­cal strat­egy to in­flame racial anx­i­ety to win votes.

In a sep­a­rate ap­pear­ance on CBS News’ Face the Na­tion, vice-pres­i­dent Mike Pence re­fused to say “Black Lives Mat­ter”. “So you won’t say ‘black lives mat­ter?’” host John Dick­er­son asked. “John, I re­ally be­lieve that all lives mat­ter,” Pence replied, us­ing a phrase long crit­i­cised for fail­ing to recog­nise the racism black Amer­i­cans face.

Chal­lenged on Trump’s rhetoric yes­ter­day in a sep­a­rate CNN ap­pear­ance, health sec­re­tary Alex Azar said: “I’ve not seen that video or that tweet, but ob­vi­ously nei­ther the pres­i­dent, his ad­min­is­tra­tion nor I would do any­thing to be sup­port­ive of white supremacy or any­thing that would sup­port dis­crim­i­na­tion of any kind.”

But many crit­ics see Trump as one of the most pow­er­ful pro­po­nents of white supremacy in the coun­try’s his­tory. An­drew Stroehlein, Euro­pean me­dia di­rec­tor of Hu­man Rights Watch, said Trump’s tweet was “not sur­pris­ing for a man who’s called neo-Nazis ‘very fine peo­ple’ and hired white na­tion­al­ists to work in the White House, but still, im­mensely dan­ger­ous.

“With his poll num­bers fall­ing, he wants a race war,” Stroehlein tweeted.

▲ Don­ald Trump, who left the post on his Twit­ter feed for nearly four hours

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