Donald Trump has removed a tweet he sent with a video of a Trump supporter yelling, “White power! White power! after a torrent of pain and outrage at the racist language that flows directly from the White House once again.
The tweet was removed after drawing strong criticism from across the political spectrum, including from Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only African-American Republican in the Senate.
“There’s no question he shouldn’t have retweeted it and should just delete it,” Scott told CNN’s “State of the Union” show.
“He was so blasphemed, everything was offensive. Certainly, the comment about white power was offensive. It is indefensible. We should shoot it down.
Trump had left the tweet, with video clips 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.
“Thanks to the great folks at The Villages,” Trump tweeted about the footage, which begins with a white man driving a golf cart holding a “Trump 2020” sign that casts racist rhetoric against white anti-Trump protesters.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said Trump had not heard the man shout “white power” at the beginning of the video he tweeted.
“President Trump is a great admirer of The Villages,” Deere said in the statement. “He did not hear the only statement made in the video.”
Cody Keenan, a former speechwriter for Barack Obama, said the tweet was part of Trump’s re-election strategy.
“How about we just overlook the kabuki where White House staff send emails to journalists anonymously to tell them they had nothing to do with it? [Republican] the senator pretends they haven’t seen him, and simply accepts that they are all part of Covid’s 2020 white power gathering until the end, “Keenan tweeted.
Trump sent the tweet when faced with a difficult reelection election, which in part involves a fight to shore up support among his base of evangelical and white Christian voters. Polls indicate that a majority of that demographic has supported protests over the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, last month.
Floyd’s protests have launched what could be a moment of trial for racial justice, on issues ranging from unexplained police killings to Confederate monuments, criminal justice reforms and the legacy of slavery to reparations.
However, Trump has leaned toward his opposition to the protests, threatening to deploy the US military in American cities, promising severe penalties for disfiguring statues, tweeting “when the looting begins, the shooting begins,” a phrase famous used in the 60s by a Miami police chief accused for a long time of intolerance and of declaring himself president of “law and order”.
On Sunday, Trump, who also faces a growing scandal over his handling of the coronavirus crisis and intelligence indicating a Russian plot against US soldiers in Afghanistan, once again tried to stoke racial tensions.
Following his retweet of images from The Villages, Trump sent a tweet in capital letters saying: “The vast majority silent 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 New’s Face the Nation, Vice President Mike Pence declined to use the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“So you won’t say ‘black lives matter?'” Host John Dickerson asked Pence.
“John, I really believe that all lives matter,” Pence replied, using a phrase that has long been criticized for failing to recognize racism faced by African-Americans.
Challenged by Trump’s rhetoric Sunday morning in a separate appearance on CNN, Health Secretary Alex Azar said he had not seen the latest tweet, but claimed that Trump does not support white supremacy.
“I have not seen that video or that tweet, but obviously neither the president, his administration nor I would do anything to support white supremacy or anything that supports discrimination of any kind,” Azar said. “[O]Obviously, the President and I and his entire administration would oppose any act of white supremacy. “
But many critics of the president see him as one of the most powerful defenders of white supremacy in the country’s history.
Andrew Stroehlein, European media director for Human Rights Watch, said Trump’s tweet “was not surprising to a man who called neo-Nazis” very good people “and hired white nationalists to work in the White House, but still , immensely dangerous.
“With the drop in his polls, he wants a racial war,” Stroehlein tweeted.
“Our racist president, who retweeted a video of ‘white power’ today, was caught covering up that Putin, who elected him, was paying rewards for murdering US soldiers,” wrote Walter Shaub, former director of the government ethics office, on Twitter. “His response is to lie, attack the press, and take no action against Putin. Trump is at war with the United States. “