Donald Trump retweets racist video of Florida supporter yelling ‘white energy’, deletes it after widespread outrage


The edited racist video shows a white man riding in a golf cart bearing “Trump 2020” and “America First” signs during what appears to be an angry clash over the president and race between elderly white residents of a Florida retirement community. Trump deleted the tweet more than three hours after posting it.

Washington: President Donald Trump on Sunday retweeted a video of one of his supporters yelling “white power!”, once again using the vast reach of his social media platforms to inflame racial divisions in a nation roiled by weeks of protests about police brutality against black people and demands for social justice reforms.

The edited racist video shows a white man riding in a golf cart bearing “Trump 2020” and “America First” signs during what appears to be an angry clash over the president and race between elderly white residents of a Florida retirement community. Trump deleted the tweet more than three hours after posting it.

In response to a protester shouting “Where’s your white hood?” and other taunts, the man in the golf cart pumps his fist in the air twice and says “white power!” twice. The two-minute video continues to show profane exchanges between protesters and other Trump supporters riding on more golf carts.

The president retweeted the video to his millions of followers just after 7:30 Sunday morning, thanking “the great people of The Villages,” the Florida retirement community where the clash apparently took place. He added: “The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall. Corrupt Joe is shot. See you soon!!!”

Donald Trump retweets racist video of Florida supporter yelling white power deletes it after widespread outrage

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

The tweet was widely criticised as racist and insensitive, and again demonstrated the president’s willingness to use social media to amplify some of the most hateful commentary of some of his followers, even at a moment of national unrest.

Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black Republican senator, called the video “offensive” and asked Trump to take it off his Twitter page.

“There is no question he should not have retweeted it, and he should just take it down,” Scott said on CNN’s State of the Union. “We can play politics with it or we can’t. I’m not going to. I think it’s indefensible. We should take it down.”

Trump deleted it less than an hour after Scott’s comments, but he did not condemn the “white power” statement or specifically disavow the sentiment expressed by his supporter.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said Trump “is a big fan of The Villages.”

“He did not hear the one statement made on the video,” Deere said. “What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”

John Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser who just released a scathing book about Trump, said Sunday that the president’s inattention to detail made it possible that he did not notice the racist comments.

“He doesn’t pay attention to a lot of things,” Bolton said on State of the Union. “It’s entirely possible that he tweeted this video because he saw the sign, I think it was in the first go-kart that said the Trump 2020 or something like that. That’s all he needed to see. Not paying attention. Not considering all the implications of information he gets.”

But Bolton added, “It may be that you can draw a conclusion that he heard it and it was racist and he tweeted it to promote the message. It’s a legitimate conclusion to draw.”

Either way, the president’s initial decision to approvingly share the blatant display of support for white supremacy was the latest example of his willingness to use his vast Twitter following to inject incendiary commentary into the ongoing debate in the country over systemic racism.

In May, as protests erupted after the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a Minneapolis police officer, Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase with a long history of connection to racism.

More recently, Trump has used his Twitter feed to attack protesters who have pulled down statues of Confederate generals, calling them “arsonists, anarchists, looters, and agitators.” On Saturday night, he tweeted out 15 “wanted” posters for people the US Park Police were seeking in connection with vandalism in Lafayette Square, just outside the White House.

The video on Sunday — which could not be independently verified by The New York Times — appeared to show a slow-moving parade through the Florida community with supporters of Trump riding golf carts, wearing red, white and blue, and displaying pro-Trump materials.

Protesters lined the street, many of them screaming epithets, accusing the Trump supporters of being racists and holding signs calling the president a bigot.

In his tweet, Trump did not specifically refer to the man who yelled “white power.” But his reference to “the great people of The Villages” was an eerie echo of his comments in the summer of 2017, when he responded to deadly violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, by saying there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Former vice-president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, invoked the president’s comments about Charlottesville in response to the video Sunday.

“We’re in a battle for the soul of the nation — and the President has picked a side,” Biden tweeted. Trump has repeatedly denied that he was expressing support for white supremacy with his “both sides” comment. But the tweet Sunday underscores what has become a hallmark of his presidency since he took office: a willingness to embrace divisive comments when they are coming from people he perceives to be his supporters.

The president has routinely retweeted far-right messages and a conspiracy theory known as QAnon, which includes people who believe that a “deep state” in the government is filled with satanic pedophiles. Trump once retweeted VB Nationalist, an anonymous account that has promoted a hoax about top Democrats worshipping the devil and engaging in child sex trafficking.

“I’ve been retweeted by the President of the United States, President Trump!” the author of the anonymous account tweeted at the time.

An analysis of Trump’s Twitter account by The New York Times at the end of last year found that the president had retweeted at least 145 unverified accounts that had pushed conspiracy, racist or other fringe content, including more than two dozen that were later suspended by Twitter.

Recently, Twitter has begun to crack down directly on Trump’s feed, posting warnings on some of his messages. In May, when the president tweeted about shooting after looting, the company added a statement to the post.

“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible,” the company wrote.

Later, when the president warned that efforts by protesters to set up an “autonomous zone” in Washington, DC, would be “met with serious force!,” Twitter put up a similar message and blocked it from being retweeted.

The quick deletion of the video Sunday was a rare instance in which Trump backed down in the face of criticism. His previous tweets have remained online despite the company’s online warnings.

Michael D Shear c.2020 The New York Times Company

 

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