Perpetrators Of Violent Hate Crimes Often Have Trump On Their Minds
(August 19, 2019) — Not long after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, President Trump — without a scintilla of self-reflection — said that his “rhetoric brings people together.” However, a new report by ABC News “has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault,” ABC News’ Mike Levine recently reported.
Instead of recognizing that his incendiary rhetoric might lead to violent acts by his white nationalist followers, Trump has taken to blaming Hollywood, video games, the media and the mentally ill for the violence. As New York magazine’s Adam K. Raymond pointed out, Trump’s rhetoric just may “be bringing together the wrong people.”
According to Levine, “In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.”
“ABC News could not find a single criminal case filed in federal or state court where an act of violence or threat was made in the name of President Barack Obama or President George W. Bush,” each of whose presidencies lasted eight years, the report noted.
The vast majority of the perpetrators in these cases were white men, “young as teenagers and as old as 75 — while the victims largely represent an array of minority groups — African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, [Jews,] and gay men,” Levine pointed out.
The cases cited by ABC News range from the beating of a homeless man [who was an “illegal”] in Boston in August 2015, after which one of the perpetrators, Steven Leader, 30, told police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” to Henry Slapnik, who after attacking his African American neighbors with a knife, told police “Donald Trump will fix them because they are scared of Donald Trump.” Numerous cases involve white men stockpiling weapons while threatening to kill Trump’s political opponents.
One of the more heavily-covered incidents by the media occurred in late October 2018, when “Over the course of a week, Florida man Cesar Sayoc allegedly mailed at least 15 potential bombs to prominent critics of Trump and members of the media. Sayoc had been living in a van plastered with pro-Trump stickers, and he had posted several pro-Trump messages on social media.
Federal prosecutors have accused him of ‘domestic terrorism,’ and Sayoc has since pleaded guilty to 65 counts, including use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. ‘We believe the president’s rhetoric contributed to Mr. Sayoc’s behavior,’ Sayoc’s attorney told the judge at sentencing.”
And, on August 3rd, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, posted a lengthy anti-immigrant diatribe online before attacking a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people and injuring 24 others. Crusius’ pre-attack screed contained a bevy of Trump talking points including calling it “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
In response to the mass shooting in El Paso and Dayton, President Obama released a statement on Twitter condemning incendiary rhetoric. The statement read in part: “We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as subhuman or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.”
As is his wont, Trump immediately responded with tweets totally confusing facts with fiction:
“Did George Bush ever condemn President Obama after Sandy Hook. President Obama had 32 mass shootings during his reign. Not many people said Obama is out of Control. Mass shootings were happening before the President even thought about running for Pres.” @kilmeade @foxandfriends
“It’s political season and the election is around the corner. They want to continue to push that racist narrative.” @ainsleyearhardt @foxandfriends And I am the least racist person. Black, Hispanic and Asian Unemployment is the lowest (BEST) in the history of the United States!
“During his presidency, Obama addressed the nation following 14 mass shootings, which included the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida,” an ABC News story stated. “Throughout his eight-year tenure, the former president called for ‘common-sense gun laws’ but did not make significant progress, with major pieces of gun control legislation failing to pass in the Senate in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.”
In a post at The Conversation website , Arie Perliger, Director of Security Studies and Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell, pointed out that “the growing overlap between the language of the far-right and the rhetoric of elected officials illustrates how the current polarization in the political system, and delegitimization of minorities by political leaders, can provide legitimacy for radical practices and violence and broader acceptance of ideas, concepts and statements that in the past were the domain of the far-right.”
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His Conservative Watch columns document the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.
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