Trump Goes Back To Defense After 'Star Of David' Tweet
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
A tweet by Donald Trump over the weekend has once again sparked criticism that the Republican candidate is appealing to white supremacists. The tweet on Saturday described Hillary Clinton as crooked. It included an illustration of hundred dollar bills with a red six-pointed star which many people saw as a Star of David. Trump says the image was not anti-Semitic. He removed the image from Twitter. NPR's Sarah McCammon joins me now to talk about what happened. Hi, Sarah.
SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: He sent out this tweet from his extremely popular Twitter account with millions of followers. And what happened next?
MCCAMMON: So it was pretty quickly replaced with a similar image featuring a circle instead of a star, and then that original tweet with the star was deleted altogether.
This all happened on Saturday morning but not before a lot of criticism, especially from people on Twitter who felt the image of a star next to a pile of money was meant to be a not-so-subtle anti-Semitic dog whistle, you know, suggestive of Jewish stereotypes.
SHAPIRO: And a lot of people have been digging into where this image originated. What can you tell us?
MCCAMMON: So as first reported by the website Mic, as far as we know, it came from a Twitter account that has all manner of offensive material on it. At one point, it was also posted on a so-called alt-right message board that bills itself as Politically Incorrect and contains lots and lots of anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi material.
SHAPIRO: Whether this was accidental or intentional, a dog whistle or a misunderstanding, it's not the first time that the Trump campaign has been accused of flirting with white supremacists.
MCCAMMON: Right. I mean, his campaign from the beginning has been characterized by these kinds of incidents. There was the, you know, famous comment in his first announcement speech referring to many Mexican immigrants as rapists. He was widely criticized for being slow to distance himself from an endorsement by the white supremacist leader David Duke and then more recently, as I'm sure you remember, the Trump University fraud case. He referred to the judge in that case, Gonzalo Curiel, as being, you know, not able to be impartial because of his Mexican ancestry. That was roundly condemned, including by people like House Speaker Paul Ryan, who called that racist.
SHAPIRO: With just two weeks until the Republican convention, what is the view of the party which had been slow to embrace Trump on where things stand right now?
MCCAMMON: I think, Ari, it's safe to say there's a lot of concern. Republican leader have been urging Trump to reign in this kind of rhetoric. You know, he did start giving more speeches from teleprompters and recently promised to carry the mantle of the GOP, as he put it.
But this seems like more of the kind of behavior that's gotten Trump in trouble before. It's the kind of remark that can put off moderates who might be making up their minds and motivate turnout among likely supporters of Hillary Clinton.
And I should add, we've seen today - the Clinton campaign released a statement calling this tweet from Trump part of a pattern that should give voters major cause for concern and accusing Trump of engaging extremists through this kind of rhetoric. So it's the kind of thing that Republican leaders want Trump to stop doing.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Sarah McCammon, thank you.
MCCAMMON: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: We should note that Donald Trump's social media director Dan Scavino released a statement this evening saying the graphic used this weekend was not created by the campaign, nor was it sourced from an anti-Semitic site. Scavino says it was lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user, and it was not meant to offend anyone. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.