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