Donald Trump Shares Campaign Video Featuring Image Used by White Supremacist Group

President Donald Trump has shared a video promoting his 2020 re-election campaign featuring the logo used by a white supremacist group in 2016.

The image—a red and blue lion's head inside a circular blue band dotted with stars—appeared at the end of the campaign video with the surnames of the president and Vice President Mike Pence. Below their names was the campaign slogan: "Keep America Great."

Thank you for the support as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 28, 2019

But eagle-eyed social media users quickly noted that the logo bore a striking similarity to one produced by the far-right website VDARE in 2016, when Trump was battling for the Republican presidential nomination. The VDARE image featured the same lion head and blue circle against a background of red stripes, apparently based on the American flag.

Further digging by Twitter users revealed the image was first used by a Twitter profile belonging to a Dutch white supremacist, which has since been suspended.

Former Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski appears to have been the first to spot the now-deleted tweet from VDARE, which was accompanied by the text: "Trump takes every original colony except NJ, which hasn't voted yet." Referring to the image, the tweet added: "Confirmed for new Continental Army flag."

2019 / 2016

— Brooke Binkowski (@brooklynmarie) August 29, 2019

The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified VDARE as a hate site. SPLC reported that VDARE grew out of the Center for American Unity, set up by British-American journalist Peter Brimelow in 1999. The group described itself as "a national non-profit educational organization dedicated to preserving our historical unity as Americans into the 21st Century."

VDARE is named after Virginia Dare, the first white English colonist born in the Americas in 1587. The organization's website "is a place where relatively intellectually inclined leaders of the anti-immigrant movement share their opinions," SPLC explained. " also regularly publishes articles by prominent white nationalists, race scientists and anti-Semites," it added.

VDARE made headlines in 2016 when a tweet from the group appeared on an electronic sign at the 2016 Republican National Convention. The message was spotted on the ticker inside the convention hall in Cleveland, Ohio, praising an anti-immigration, pro-Trump speech given by New York Rep. Chris Collins.

Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign communications director, dismissed any link between the campaign and white supremacist groups. He told Newsweek by email, "The president shared an independently-produced video that highlighted the strengths of the economy his policies have created."

"Any conspiracy connected to white supremacy exists only in the fevered minds of reporters who will believe anything negative about the president."

The same lion logo is also used by a group calling itself the "Lion Guard." The organization was established to ensure "the safety and security of #Trump supporters by exposing Far-Left infiltrators and saboteurs," according to its Twitter page, which bears the handle @lionsoftrump.

Its website regularly quotes Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini, Politico reported. A quote attributed to the dictator reads: "It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep." Trump also shared this quote in 2016—without attributing it to the fascist leader—when retweeting the account @ilduce2016—itself a reference to Mussolini's "Il Duce" title.

Twitter users dug further back into the history of the lion head logo, using reverse image searches to track it all the way back to a suspended Twitter account belonging to Dutch white supremacist using the account @keksec_org. The image was shared on the page in 2016.

Incidentally, Trump also retweeted this account in 2015, thanking the user for their support. At the time, @keksec_org's Twitter biography read: "#KekSec/Stop #WhiteGenocide/White Preservist/Programmer/Dutch Patriot/Race War when." The reference to a race war was later deleted from the biography.

The Trump administration has been regularly accused of links to and sympathy for white supremacist groups in the U.S. Trump, a self-declared nationalist, has been criticized for his past hesitance to condemn white supremacist terrorism and has regularly been accused of using racist and xenophobic tropes and dog-whistle phrases to target minorities.

Donald Trump, 2020, logo, white supremacy
An attendee holds a "Keep America Great" sign as President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd during a campaign rally at Freedom Hall on October 1, 2018 in Johnson City, Tennessee. Sean Rayford/Getty Images/Getty