With the Mueller investigation producing a big, fat zero and impeachment looking uncertain at best, Democrats are turning to accusations of white supremacy as their next gambit to drive President Trump from office.
Since two mass shootings horrified the nation last weekend, Democratic presidential candidates and others on the left are increasingly tagging Mr. Trump with the label, which is among the most abhorrent in politics.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts all have lobbed the accusation of “white supremacist” at Mr. Trump in recent days.
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was asked by reporters Thursday whether he thinks Mr. Trump is a white supremacist and said it may be worse than that.
“I believe everything the president says and has done encourages white supremacists, and I’m not sure there’s much of a distinction. As a matter of fact, it may be even worse,” he said.
The definition of “white supremacist” is a person who believes the white race is “inherently superior to other races and that white people should have control over people of other races,” according to Merriam-Webster.
Republican strategist John Feehery said Democrats “look desperate” by leveling the accusation against Mr. Trump.
“They are making these accusations because they make their base happy and because they believe that, short of impeachment, the only way they beat Trump is making him so toxic that suburban voters won’t vote for him,” Mr. Feehery said. “I think they have gone way overboard because they aren’t just attacking Trump; they are attacking everybody who voted for him.”
Mr. O’Rourke, who is polling around 2% in the Democratic presidential primary, has been one of the most vocal in labeling the president a white supremacist.
“He is — he has made that very clear,” Mr. O’Rourke said Wednesday on MSNBC. “He dehumanized those who do not look and pray like the majority of people here. He said I wish we had more immigrants from Nordic countries because those from Haiti bring AIDS, those from Africa are sh–hole nations.”
Alveda King, a niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and a Trump supporter, had a question for Mr. O’Rourke.
“President Trump is not a racist. He’s not a white supremacist. I’d like to ask anyone who calls him that, have they ever met one?” she said on Fox News.
Ms. King, who survived the bombing of her family’s home by white supremacists, said most liberals accusing the president of racial intolerance cannot claim the moral high ground.
“Everyone who’s calling President Trump a racist and white supremacist, most of them support killing in a very brutal way, called abortion,” she said. “They’re using that word ‘moral,’ but they’re doing some of the most immoral deeds that America and humankind can ever see. … So I really just don’t buy into this racist banter and this race-baiting.”
The president told reporters Wednesday that he is “concerned about the rise of any group of hate.”
“Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy. Whether it’s antifa,” he said, referring to the far-left, “anti-fascist” movement. “Whether it’s any group of hate, I am very concerned about it. And I’ll do something about it.”
The president tweeted later in the day, “The Dems new weapon is actually their old weapon, one which they never cease to use when they are down, or run out of facts, RACISM! They are truly disgusting! They even used it on Nancy Pelosi. I will be putting out a list of all people who have been so (ridiculously) accused!”
The White House has invited representatives of tech companies to a meeting Friday to discuss violent online extremism in the aftermath of the shootings, which claimed 31 lives.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, applauded the effort Thursday.
“From extremist ideology, to copycat manifestos inspired by the Christchurch massacre, to secret hate groups by Border Patrol agents, online extremism is fanning the flames of hatred and violence across our nation and the world,” he said. “We need better solutions to remove any content that incites violence proactively while recognizing and protecting First Amendment rights.”
Critics point to Mr. Trump’s comment after the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the demonstrations, and his use of the term “invasion” to describe illegal immigration across the Mexican border, as incitement to white supremacists.
Mr. Trump also said after the Charlottesville incident, “Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs.”
On Monday, he said in response to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy.”
The Trump campaign this week highlighted 14 examples of his denouncements of racism, hate crimes and other bigotry since taking office, and seven interviews on TV in which he condemned the KKK, David Duke, white supremacists and neo-Nazis dating to February 2000.
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said in a post on Twitter that Democrats and media spent two years falsely calling Mr. Trump a Russian agent and then “Spent last 5 days recklessly calling him a mass murderer & white supremacist.”
“Same goes for all his supporters, according to them,” he tweeted, adding that when Mr. Trump responds to the “endless onslaught, Media & Dems freak out.”
Indeed, liberals have been increasingly applying the “white supremacist” label and similar “racism” criticisms to all Trump backers, based merely on that support.
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is coming under fire from one of his players and other liberals for his plans to host a fundraiser for Mr. Trump on Friday at his home on Long Island, New York. The president is expected to attend the big-ticket event, in which the price for a private roundtable discussion with Mr. Trump is $250,000.
Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills said Mr. Ross’ support of the president conflicts with the mission of his Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, which aims to combat racial discrimination through sports.
“You can’t have a nonprofit with this mission statement then open your doors to Trump,” Mr. Stills tweeted.
Others are calling for a boycott of fitness brands Equinox and SoulCycle, in which Mr. Ross is an investor. Comedian Billy Eichner, a voice actor in the movie “The Lion King,” tweeted that Mr. Ross is “enabling racism and mass murder” by supporting the president.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted, “If Stephen Ross funds Trump’s white supremacist campaign filled with fascist chants of ‘SHOOT THEM’ and ‘SEND THEM BACK’, then Steve Ross makes that white supremacy campaign possible. He’s directly funding online ads warning of a Hispanic ‘invasion’ just like the El Paso shooter.”
Mr. Ross defended his support of the president in a statement saying, “I have always been an active participant in the democratic process. I have known Donald Trump for 40 years, and while we agree on some issues, we strongly disagree on many others and I have never been bashful about expressing my opinions.”
White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Tucker Carlson on Thursday for calling white supremacy a “hoax.” The Fox News Channel host said the form of racial hatred exists but gets too much attention compared with “all forms of hate.”
Mrs. Conway said she thinks “white supremacy is real,” but she added that Mr. Carlson likely meant that it receives “outsized coverage” versus other forms of hate such as anti-Semitism.
“All forms of hate have to really, they have to be reined in. We have to look at the motivations, we have to try to keep firearms out of the hands of those who are capable of doing such evil,” she told Sinclair.
Mr. Carlson received backlash after he brushed off concerns of white supremacy in the aftermath of the mass shooting in El Paso, which is suspected to have been fueled by anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns, of problems this country faces, where would white supremacy be on the list? Right up there with Russia, probably,” Mr. Carlson said. “This is a hoax. Just like the Russia hoax. It’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power. That’s exactly what’s going on.”
Salem Media radio host Kevin McCullough said he “absolutely” believes the race-based allegations against Mr. Trump from Democrats will get worse as the 2020 campaign progresses.
“Every one of those candidates has something to gain by fanning this discussion of Trump and supposed white supremacy, but it’s not good for the country,” he said on Fox.
Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, whose oversight of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation often put him in conflict with the president, said Thursday that Mr. Trump can seize the moment to bring the nation together.
“Thoughtful political rhetoric can be part of the solution, as President Trump implicitly recognized by urging Americans to condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy,” Mr. Rosenstein wrote in Time magazine. “If a president’s words matter — and Donald Trump clearly believes they do — then vociferous advocacy for tolerance might deter some people from adopting pernicious ideologies.”
He concluded, “Many presidents have used their bully pulpit to inculcate moral virtues. President Trump pledged in his Inaugural Address to ‘lift our sights and heal our divisions.’ This fraught political moment might inspire him to emphasize that laudable goal in future speeches, just as Sept. 11 set a new course for President [George W.] Bush.”
⦁ Bailey Vogt contributed to this report.
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