Michael D'Antonio: Trump's racially charged and false rhetoric is not just him kicking it up a notch for campaign; he has long history of this
He says Trump risks inciting the worst in others and what we see is a troubling reflection of the genuine Trump
Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is the author of the new book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” (St. Martin’s Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
After a protester who shouted “black lives matter” was assaulted by members of the crowd at one of Donald Trump’s rallies, the presidential candidate said on Fox News, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
Hours later he took to Twitter to spread a false and inflammatory set of crime “statistics” purporting to show, among other erroneous things, that 81% of whites who were killed last year were victims of black assailants.
According to the FBI, 82% of whites killed in 2014 were attacked by whites. The false information in Trump’s message was attributed to a nonexistent organization identified as the “Crime Statistics Bureau – San Francisco,” but the true source appears to be an Internet poster who uses a modified swastika as an identifying symbol. (ThinkProgress.com identified the source.)
The FBI data are easy to obtain, but a check could have ruined the post. Trump added more insult to the injury by keeping the illustration in the original: a photo of a young African-American man dressed to look like a thug raising a pistol.
Trump’s tweet and his comment about the black protester are by no means isolated incidents. Inflammatory language and claims that risk inciting the worst in others are reflections of the true Trump.
He began his presidential campaign by using the words “rapists” and “murderers” and “drug dealers” to raise an alarm about undocumented Mexican immigrants. In recent days he has spread a false story about “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in the United States. “It was on television,” said Trump. “I saw it.” There’s zero evidence for any of this.
He has also spoken about the need for a national registry or special forms of identification for Muslim citizens.
Amid pushback from critics who compared the registration concept to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, Trump made the point that a reporter had suggested the concept and he merely entertained it. However he then doubled down, as the expression goes, saying of the registry he “would certainly implement that – absolutely.” Pressed again about whether Muslims would be forced to sign up on government rolls he added, “They have to be. They have to be.”
As a man who proclaims himself to be “a really smart person,” Trump understands the implications of his speech. He knows that targeting people for special government surveillance simply because they belong to a certain religion smacks of dangerous bigotry.
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before,” said Trump. “And some people are going to be upset about it.” However he deems it necessary because “I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule.”