President Trump retweeted a video of a supporter shouting “white power” Sunday — then deleted it after sparking a new firestorm of criticism.
“Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” the president wrote on Twitter in a post retweeting the video, which was taken at a June 14 pro-Trump rally in the central Florida GOP stronghold of The Villages and shows a man yelling the racist slogan at a group of anti-Trump protesters.
Trump deleted the post three hours later after it drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle.
Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only Black GOP senator, denounced the message as “offensive.”
“There’s no question he should not have retweeted it, and he should just take it down,” Scott said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think it’s indefensible,” Scott said.
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden compared Trump’s retweet with his previous praise of “really fine people” who marched in the infamous 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“We’re in a battle for the soul of the nation — and the President has picked a side,” Biden said.
A White House spokesman insisted that Trump only meant to amplify the enthusiasm of his supporters, not the racist remark.
“He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said in a statement.
The Trump supporter was driving his golf cart past a group of angry, sign-carrying counter-protesters who shouted insults and accused them of being white supremacists.
The unidentified #MAGA guy responded by shaking his fist and shouting, “White power” twice. One of the anti-Trump protesters then remarked: “You see, [he said], ‘White power.‘”
The Villages is a sprawling retirement community an hour’s drive northwest of Orlando. It’s one of the most strongly Republican areas in the entire state and regularly delivers margins of 3-1 or more for GOP candidates, including Trump.
Trump has increasingly sought to side with opponents of the Black Lives Matter protests that have swept the country since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The president hopes to win reelection by appealing to the same disaffected, mostly white voters who backed him four years ago.
He has repeatedly stoked racial divisions in the country at a time when tensions are already high over the Floyd killing and the protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets.
The strategy may be backfiring politically, however, as the president’s support has plunged in recent polls against Biden.
Trump has also recently drawn criticism for using the racist term “Kung flu” to refer to coronavirus. He claims he is merely noting that the virus surfaced in China.
Earlier in his term, he was accused of being racist when he denounced Haiti and certain African nations as “s—hole countries.” Many African Americans also believe Trump acted out of bigotry when he embraced the so-called Birther movement that falsely claimed President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Trump knew what he was doing when he tweeted the video.
“It’s about what the president believes and it’s time for this country to really face that,” Ifill said.