Offend, Blame, Repeat: Trump Lashes Out Over Star Tweet

Donald Trump, shown July 1, lashed out at the media Monday for their reporting on his tweet that was widely criticized as anti-Semitic. Rick Wilking/Reuters

Donald Trump's pattern (strategy?) of outraging people and then blaming the media for the fallout continues with his response to a tweet that drew on age-old anti-Semitic symbolism to criticize Hillary Clinton.

The presumptive Republican nominee for president predictably lashed out at the "dishonest media" on Twitter Monday for "trying their absolute best to depict a star in a tweet as the Star of David rather than a Sheriff's Star, or plain star!" Of course, the "plain star" was anything but, as Trump tweeted Saturday a graphic of Clinton overlaid on a bed of money and a Star of David-shaped symbol that labeled the likely Democratic nominee as the "most corrupt candidate ever!" He soon replaced the unmistakable six-pointed star with a circle, but not before being widely condemned for a political dog whistle that had the force of an air raid siren toward bigots and anti-Semites.  

“Donald Trump’s use of blatantly anti-Semitic image from racist websites to promote his campaign would be disturbing enough, but the fact that it’s part of a pattern should give voters major cause for concern,” Sara Bard, the Hillary Clinton campaign director for Jewish outreach, said in a statement on Monday. “Now, not only won’t he apologize for it, he’s peddling lies and blaming others,” she added.

In keeping with prior outrages, the graphic itself originated in darker corners elsewhere and was appropriated by the Trump campaign. Mic and Reuters confirmed Sunday that the Star of David image originally appeared on the "Politically Incorrect" board within the 8Chan network, a haven for white supremacists and anti-Semites, and was connected to a since-deleted Twitter account that "regularly tweets violent, racist memes commenting on the state of geopolitical politics."

Trump's surrogates quickly came to his defense, with fired campaign manager turned CNN commentator Corey Lewandowski telling an incredulous Brianna Keilar that "a tweet is a simple tweet, and the bottom line is you can read into things that aren't there." Instead, it's the pesky media's fault for spreading nonsense about his former boss. "It's the same star that sheriff's departments across the country use to represent law enforcement, and to read into something that isn't there...Again, I think that's the mainstream media trying to attack Donald Trump," Lewandowski said. Trump senior adviser Ed Brookover also contributed to the narrative, telling CNN there "never was any intention of anti-Semitism" while sloughing off the graphic's origin. “These memes float around the internet. Not every six-sided star is a Star of David. There is no intent here at all. We corrected this tweet and have moved on," Brookover said. 

If this all seems familiar, well, it is. A Fortune analysis revealed that Trump, an avid Twitter user, has retweeted racists' comments at least 75 times since the start of his campaign. "It is possible that Trump...doesn’t do even basic vetting of those whose tweets he amplifies to his seven million followers. But the reality is that there are dozens of tweets mentioning @realDonaldTrump each minute, and he has an uncanny ability to surface ones that come from accounts that proudly proclaim their white supremacist leanings," Fortune wrote.

And the tweets are reaching an obvious audience. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist website, granted Trump the title of "glorious leader" this weekend and told its supporters that Trump's tweets are winks to neo-Nazis and racists. "It comes just after he made some offensive comments about Israel being our friend—he says this for the evangelicals, then he signals to us—his real supporters—that we need not worry, he is just shilling a bit to get into power," The Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin wrote. "I absolutely support confronting Trump on any pro-Israel rhetoric—starting Friday, January 21st, 2017. But after that day, we’re going to be hearing a whole lot less of that rhetoric. I can tell you that."

Those fervent racists can be perhaps excused for their enthusiasm, as Trump has made racially tinged remarks and policies a hallmark of his campaign. The incidences are almost too many to mention: from his oft-repeated calls to ban Muslim immigration, to his demonizing of Mexicans, to his suggestion that a judge's heritage disqualifies him, to referring to a black supporter as "my African-American"—we can't shrug them all off as the gaffes of a political neophyte.  

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