Trump defends honoring racists in monument debate

Confederate statues at airports named for a movie star who once said he believed in white supremacy, the president decried the measures that would strip racists of their monuments and memorials – rather line up with those who would keep the honors intact.

And he promoted a video of a white couple brandishing weapons as peaceful black protesters paraded past their flowery mansion, images that highlighted a continuing racial divide.

Helpers and the people around him denounced everything, from removing “Gone with the Wind” – one of Trump’s favorite movies – to renaming Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup, shattering the stereotypes that have long been called racists.

Trump thanked the `` great people '' shown in a Twitter video in which a man sings & # 39; white power & # 39;
Combined with his efforts to protect federal monuments, Trump’s continued use of racist rhetoric and the tropes has only exacerbated the racial tensions that intensified after the police murder of George Floyd on May 25, a event that sparked protests and a new calculation of racist symbols in America.

Beyond simply expressing his opposition to the changes, Trump has aggressively called for the prosecution of those who damaged or destroyed statues in American cities. This week, he tweeted that the FBI was looking for posters looking for information about people who had degraded a statue of Andrew Jackson near the White House. He wrote Tuesday morning that he was “hunting down” vandals who threw red paint on “magnificent” George Washington statues in Manhattan and encouraged them to turn to the police.

“See you now!” Trump wrote.

On Friday, he signed a closed-door decree that threatens to deny federal funding to local governments that are unable to protect the monuments in their jurisdiction. It is unclear from a legal point of view whether this threat can be implemented, and many viewed the executive as a political theater intended to exploit an emerging cultural divide.

Nonetheless, Trump continued to take sides against any attempt to rename or delete, even when those who were deleted took openly sectarian or racist views.

“Can anyone believe that Princeton has just removed the name of Woodrow Wilson from their highly respected political center,” Trump tweeted after the university announced that it would remove the 28th president from his school of public policy and of a boarding school.

Princeton president said in a statement that the school board “had concluded that Woodrow Wilson’s racist thinking and policies made him an inappropriate namesake for a school or college including academics, students and alumni must firmly oppose racism in all its forms. “

As President of the United States, Wilson once called racial segregation a “benefit” and declared that the slaves “were happy and well looked after”. As president of Princeton, he denied the admission of African American men and sought to exclude them from the history of the school. The decision to withdraw his name was welcomed by former first lady Michelle Obama, who graduated from Princeton in 1985.

As president, Trump did not quote Wilson much and showed a greater affinity for other presidents, such as Jackson, a slave owner whose portrait hangs in the oval office. Yet Trump’s shock that Wilson’s name would be deleted followed his pattern of opposition to any attempt to rename or remove historic markers.

In the same tweet, Trump lambasted efforts to rename an airport in Orange County, California.

“Now the Democrats do nothing want to remove the name of John Wayne from an airport,” he wrote. “Incredible stupidity!”

Democrats in Orange County are pushing to rename the airport, citing support for white supremacy by the western movie star in a 1971 Playboy interview, in which he adopted disparaging views of African-Americans, Native Americans, and movies with gay characters.

“While some outside Orange County may not be aware of John Wayne’s beliefs in white supremacy, many residents of Orange County have been asking for his removal for years,” said the president of county party, Ada Briceño, in a statement. “We are seeing new calls for it right now, and it is time to change.”

In an interview last year, the actor’s son Ethan Wayne said his father’s words in Playboy Q&A were taken out of context and his father “took everyone literally” .

Trump has long embraced the boastful character of John Wayne as a conservative archetype worthy of modeling, be it his exaggerated masculinity or his uncompromising “law and order” mantra that often ignores due process. Trump visited Wayne’s birthplace in Iowa during his 2016 presidential bid, where he stood before a wax statue of the actor and declared himself a “longtime” fan.

“We love John Wayne,” he said while the actor’s daughter Aissa said if his father was alive he would support Trump.

“We need someone like Mr. Trump with leadership qualities, someone with courage, someone strong like John Wayne,” she said.

As president, Trump has always opposed the removal of Confederate statues and monuments, although he said at a Fox News event last week that he would support the placement of certain statues in museums.

He did not weigh in on the Mississippi Legislative Assembly’s decision to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Monday only: “It is a decision Mississippi must make. “

Earlier this month, McEnany manifested a much greater passion when she discussed the temporary removal of “Gone with the Wind” from the HBO Max streaming library, a decision she pronounced as the beginning of a slippery slope.

“I am told that you can no longer find ‘Gone with the Wind’ on HBO because in one way or another, it is now offensive,” she said. “Where do you draw the line?”

The film was then restored to the streaming service with a new disclaimer (HBO and CNN share a parent company, Warner Media).

A person familiar with the matter said that Trump himself had also privately denounced the removal of “Gone with the Wind”, a film that harbored racist stereotypes while concealing the horrors of slavery, but that he hailed it as one of the greatest ever made.

Trump quoted the film as complaining about this year’s winner of the Oscar for best photo, the South Korean-made “Parasite” at an election rally earlier this year.

“Can we come back as ‘Gone with the Wind’, please? he asked after the awards in February.

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