The nation got its first taste of Donald Trump as a candidate when the New York billionaire real estate developer opened his campaign with a June 16 speech that horrified Latinos, immigrants and millions of others. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Two weeks later, under criticism across the political spectrum, he insisted his claims were “totally accurate.”
The speech left white nationalists overjoyed — they could hardly believe that views so close to their own were being made by such a public figure. Members of the White Genocide Project, which promotes the myth that white people worldwide are being subjected to mass murder, started a petition to honor Trump for “opposing white genocide.” Jared Taylor, who heads the racist journal American Renaissance and has said black people are incapable of sustaining civilization, said his followers “have been dreaming of a candidate who says the obvious, that illegal immigrants from Mexico are a low-rent bunch that includes rapists and murderers.”
Ted Cruz, who had announced his presidential bid in March, submitted a video speech to the National Security Action Summit in New Hampshire. The event was organized by the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy, which is headed by Frank Gaffney. Gaffney is known for his paranoid ideas about Muslims, including the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated American government. At one point, he even accused two leading conservatives of being Brotherhood agents.
Trump introduced a six-page immigration plan that read like the playbook of the organized anti-immigration movement in America — deportation of some 12 million people, a border wall to be paid for by Mexico, and gutting the 14th Amendment guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in this country. The plan was devised with the help of nativist lawyer Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who also serves as an attorney for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a far-right anti-immigration group. Kobach is known for promoting and defending anti-immigrant legislation and voter ID laws.
Neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke praised Trump’s immigration plan, telling followers that “he has really said some incredibly great things recently. So whatever his motivation, I don’t give a damn. I really like the fact that he’s speaking out on this greatest immediate threat to the American people.”
One echo of Trump’s rhetoric was seen when two brothers in Boston beat a homeless Latino man with a metal pipe and urinated on him. After their arrest, one told police, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
Following a clash with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Trump told CNN that Kelly had “blood coming out of her wherever,” a comment taken by millions to blame Kelly’s tough debate questions on her menstrual cycle. It was only the latest apparently misogynistic comment from Trump, who regularly slams women.
In the middle of the month, Trump claimed to fire his top adviser, Roger Stone, although Stone told reporters before that announcement that he had actually resigned. (Politico reported that Stone was bothered by Trump’s sustained attack on Kelly.) In fact, Stone remained close to the campaign, according to several media accounts. Stone, who had a minor role in the Watergate scandal, is known for his political dirty tricks and for racist attacks using phrases like “stupid Negro,” “House Negro,” Nigga,” “Uncle Tom,” “Arrogant Know-It-All Negro” and more.
Ted Cruz, meanwhile, visited the Tupelo, Miss., headquarters of the American Family Association, an anti-LGBT group known for linking gay men to pedophilia, among other falsehoods. Cruz was interviewed on one of the group’s radio programs and was pictured there with Bryan Fischer — a former group spokesman who has claimed that gay men orchestrated the Holocaust and that welfare was destroying African-American families because it rewarded people who “rut like rabbits.”
With white nationalists, Klansmen and neo-Nazis increasingly flocking to Trump’s cause, American Freedom Party head William Daniel Johnson donated $250 to the Trump campaign. Johnson, whose organization includes some of America’s leading racist thinkers, is infamous for a constitutional amendment he once proposed and promoted that would have deported any American with “an ascertainable trace of Negro blood,” along with other nonwhites.
Also in September, Trump and Cruz teamed up to organize a rally opposing the nuclear treaty signed with Iran. Gaffney’s Islam-bashing Center for Security Policy co-sponsored the rally that featured a number of the country’s leading anti-Muslim activists, including Brigitte Gabriel, who heads ACT! for America. Gabriel has said that any practicing Muslim “cannot be a loyal citizen of the United States,” called Arabs “barbarians,” and claimed American textbooks glorify Islam.
After a Black Lives Matter activist was beaten by Trump supporters at a Nov. 21 rally in Birmingham, Ala., the candidate told Fox News, “Maybe he should have been roughed up. It was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”
The next day, Trump retweeted an image of a black man dressed like a gangster that claimed, among other things, that blacks were responsible for 81% of whites murdered in the United States — a “Pants on Fire” falsehood, according to PolitiFact, that was almost the exact reverse of the truth (in 2014, 82% of murdered whites were killed by other white people). The website Little Green Footballs traced the original tweet to a Hitler admirer. Trump never retracted or apologized for the tweet, one result of which was a jump in Google searches for the phrase “black on white crime” from 2,900 searches in October to 8,100 in November.
Trump also made a claim that he had watched the World Trade Center collapse on 9/11 “as thousands of people were cheering” in New Jersey. Multiple investigations of the alleged celebration by Muslims found that no such thing occurred, but Trump repeated the allegation and refused to retract it.
The white supremacist American Freedom Party leader founded a political action committee, the American National Trump Super PAC. The group would soon start conducting robocalls in a string of states promoting Trump’s candidacy.
The same month, Cruz gushed over his endorsement by anti-abortion hardliner Troy Newman, writing, “We need leaders like Troy Newman in this country who will stand up for those who do not have a voice.” Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, where a leading staffer is a convicted clinic bomber, once argued that Paul Hill, who murdered an abortion doctor and his bodyguard, should have been allowed to present a defense of “justifiable defensive action.”
Cruz also spoke, along with GOP rivals Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal, at the National Religious Liberties Conference organized by pastor Kevin Swanson in Des Moines, Iowa. Swanson has called for punishing homosexuality with death. Also speaking at the conference was Cruz’s father, Rafael Cruz, who said in 2013 that same-sex marriage was a government plot to destroy the family.
In the aftermath of the November Islamic State attacks in Paris and a suburb that left 130 dead, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States. His statement was accompanied by a link to a “poll” from Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy claiming that “25% of those polled agreed that violence against Americans here in the United States is justified.” In fact, Gaffney’s data was from a wildly unscientific “opt-in” poll. Other, serious surveys have shown that the number of American Muslims supporting violence is relatively tiny.
Rachel Pendergraft, the national membership coordinator for the Knights Party — also known as the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the group started by Duke — told the Washington Post that the Trump campaign was helping outreach.
Cruz, meanwhile, made a video appearance at another of Gaffney’s National Security Action Summits, in Las Vegas. He was not the only GOP presidential candidate to speak — so did Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Rick Santorum.
Trump retweeted a message mocking Jeb Bush from the account @WhiteGenocideTM, which earlier sent messages claiming “Hitler SAVED Europe” and “Jews/Israel did 9/11.” “White genocide” is the idea promoted by white supremacists that white people, far from running most of the developed world, are actually being subjected to a genocide that will ultimately wipe out their race. Trump also retweeted a message from a Southern secessionist during the same month.
William Johnson’s PAC, now renamed the American National Super PAC, started rolling out robocalls in favor of Trump, first in Iowa. Joining Johnson on the call was racist leader Jared Taylor, who said, in part, “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.”
Trump boasted of an endorsement from Carl Gallups, a Florida pastor who is also a Sandy Hook “truther” who believes that the 2012 massacre of children in Newton, Conn., was set up by the government as an excuse to seize Americans’ guns. Such ideas are common in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement.
Trump, Cruz and six other Republican presidential candidates recorded speeches for a “Free to Believe” broadcast organized by the anti-LGBT Family Research Council. The group’s leader has claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem” despite the fact that virtually all medical associations disagree.
A rally for Cruz was hosted by a number of hardline radio hosts and included people like Steve Deace, who has suggested that President Obama may refuse to leave office when his term is up in early 2017. Separately, the Cruz campaign lauded the endorsement of pastor Mike Bickle, who said this in a recent sermon attacking same-sex marriage: “The young boy with the old man, the pedophiles, all of this will end up being presented as normative, acceptable, healthy sexual patterns in the school systems, millions of children systematically taught this.”
Duke, in the closest thing to a formal endorsement of Trump yet, told his followers that “voting against Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”
Trump appeared later on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he repeatedly dodged questions about Duke, saying, “I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay?” That was false. In fact, Trump had criticized Duke in 1991, when he came close to winning the race for governor of Louisiana. And in 2000, Trump decided not to run for the Reform Party presidential nomination because, in large part, he did not want to be associated with Duke, who was supporting another candidate, Pat Buchanan, for the Reform Party’s nomination. At the time, Trump called Duke “a bigot, a racist, a problem” and, separately, “a Klansman” and “a neo-Nazi.”
Trump later blamed his refusal to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.” But it functioned well enough that he heard the words “David Duke,” at the least.
Asked in the CNN interview about the Ku Klux Klan and related groups, Trump demurred. “I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look.” By this time, many white supremacists were publicly describing Trump as their “fearless leader,” a phrase coined by a neo-Nazi.
Also in February, Trump told a South Carolina audience a story about General John Pershing executing Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig’s blood,” a complete fairy tale that that effectively demeaned Muslims.
In a speech on caucus day in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Trump told his audience that he would pay the legal fees of followers who beat up protesters at his rallies. “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them,” he said. “Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay your legal fees.”
Later, Trump claimed he had “never said” that.
The American Freedom Party’s Johnson continued his robocalls for Trump in states including Vermont and Minnesota. In them, Johnson said, “Don’t vote for a Cuban,” a reference to Marco Rubio. “Vote for Donald Trump.” Trump later said that he would return the $250 Johnson donated to his campaign in September.
On Feb. 27, the Trump campaign gave press credentials to James Edwards to cover a Memphis rally. Edwards is host of “The Political Cesspool,” a racist radio show that has featured a Who’s Who of radical-right guests. At the rally, Edwards interviewed one of Trump’s sons, who later said he didn’t know who Edwards was.
Another echo of Trump’s rhetoric was seen in Merrillville, Ind., when white Andrean High School students chanted “Build a wall” at their counterparts from predominantly Latino Bishop Noll Institute during a basketball game.
Cruz was endorsed by Jerry Boykin, a vice president of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council who has said that Islam should not be protected under the First Amendment and that Muslims want to “destroy our Constitution.”
Former Alabama Klan leader and Duke associate Don Black, who runs the largest white supremacist Web forum in the country, told his radio audience that although Trump was not a perfect candidate, “we are all pulling for him, voting for him if we can.” The American Freedom Party, meanwhile, organized robocalls in Utah attacking Mitt Romney for denouncing Trump, and launched a hotline “to help those who are attacked physically and verbally for supporting Trump.”
But much of the violence seemed to be coming from the other side. Matthew Heimbach, a key white supremacist, was videotaped at a Trump rally in Louisville, Ky., shoving an African-American woman. He later boasted about the attack.
At a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump supporter John McGraw was videotaped sucker-punching a black protester as he was being led away by police. McGraw was arrested the next day and charged with assault, and the local sheriff described the attack as “a cowardly, unprovoked act.” Trump, however, told two national news outlets that he was looking into paying McGraw’s legal fees.
As part of his new National Security Advisory Committee, Trump chose Joseph Schmitz, a fellow at the anti-immigration Center for Immigration Studies, and Walid Phares, an American of Lebanese Christian extraction who Mother Jones magazine said “was a high ranking political official in a sectarian religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon’s brutal, 15-year civil war.”
For his part, Cruz named to his new National Security Coalition extremists including Boykin, Gaffney and two staffers at Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, Fred Fleitz and Clare Lopez. Lopez is known for statements like one she made in 2013, saying that “[w]hen Muslims follow their doctrine, they become jihadists.”
Reacting to Islamist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, Cruz said there was a “need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.” His proposal was criticized by many police leaders.
Cruz also held his Texas primary election watch party at the Redneck Country Club founded by radio host John Berry. Berry has referred to black people as “jungle animals” and mocked black victims of gun violence, Media Matters reported.
Fans of Elkhorn High School in Wisconsin yelled out “Donald Trump, build that wall!” and similar chants at a girls’ soccer game against Beloit Memorial High School, whose team is mostly Latina or black. The Beloit coach said afterwards that his players “weren’t able to finish the game” because they were so distraught.
The Cruz campaign released a list of 50 religious leaders backing their candidate. It included Julaine Appling, who Mother Jones reported “once stood up for the idea that gay couples who married in another state should be sent to prison.” In Colorado, the campaign announced its Colorado Leadership Team, including Gordon Klingenschmitt, who Right Wing Watch reported has said gay people are demonic and teaching children about same-sex marriage is like mental rape.
The Guardian reported that Tim Clark and Ron Nehring, who were running the California campaigns for Trump and Cruz, respectively, were once paid advisers to a Guatemalan presidential candidate who called for public executions.
Trump appointed Frank Amedia as his “liaison for Christian policy,” arranging for Trump meetings with conservative religious leaders. Amedia has said that people get AIDS “because of unnatural sex,” admitted under a grant of immunity that he once tried to bribe a prosecutor not to charge a car dealer for rolling back odometers, and claimed to stop a tsunami through prayer.
In Washington, D.C., police released a video showing an unidentified white woman assaulting a black woman wearing a hijab. The victim, who said the woman also poured a strange-smelling liquid on her, said her attacker called her “fucking Muslim trash,” shouted that she was voting for Trump, and said she hoped that as president he would send “all of you terrorist Muslims out of the country.”
John Martin Roos, another Trump supporter, was arrested in Oregon after allegedly threatening to kill President Obama repeatedly on social media. The threats, the Huffington Post reported, included this: “Obama you goat fffing fudgepacker, the refugees are men of fighting age. Black lives matter! Sure we need someone to pick cotton and wash cars. Paris, burn diseased muslim neighborhoods to the ground and start over with human beings. Obama you are on a hit list.”
Also in May, it came to light that the American Freedom Party’s William Johnson was listed as a Trump delegate in California. The campaign described his listing as a “database error,” although that was never explained publicly.
That wasn’t Trump’s only delegate problem. One Trump delegate in Maryland was indicted on weapons and child pornography charges. Another in Tennessee was reported to have said that current U.S. leaders need to be killed. Yet another, Everett Corley of Kentucky, had a Facebook page that “reveals strong support for Trump and the Confederacy, and he also shares phony memes about a wall between Mexico and Guatemala and complaints about ‘black thugs’ removing white farmers from their land in Rhodesia,” according to Raw Story.
Trump attacked U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge hearing the case brought by former students of Trump University who say they were ripped off as they paid thousands of dollars to learn Trump’s real estate strategies. Trump said that Curiel had “an absolute conflict” in judging the case because he is “Mexican” — although Curiel was born in Indiana of parents who emigrated from Mexico — and Trump, as he said repeatedly, is “building a wall” on the Mexican border.
The comments unleashed a firestorm, as both Democrats and Republicans excoriated Trump as a bigot or, in some cases, tried to avoid saying anything about the incident at all. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking official in the GOP, described Trump’s words as “a textbook definition of a racist comment.”
Trump soon extended his remarks to Muslims, who he suggested also might not be able to judge him fairly, given his proposal to ban Muslims from immigrating to the United States. He later claimed his comments had been misconstrued.
In an interview with a local Pennsylvania newspaper, the Times Leader based in Wilkes-Barre, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Penn) revealed that he was asked by the Trump campaign to draft a policy paper on immigration. Barletta has a long history of working with anti-immigrant groups including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) dating back to his time as the mayor of Hazelton, PA. Hazelton introduced one of the harshest anti-immigrant ordinances in the mid-2000’s as part of FAIR’s policy of attrition through enforcement – passing harsh anti-immigrant laws so that immigrants “self-deport” out of the area and ultimately, back to their country of origin.
In the aftermath of the June 12 massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Trump suggested repeatedly that “the Muslim community” must have been complicit in the attack, saying, “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this” even though, as he said of the killer elsewhere, “They know that he was bad.” He also extended the claim, for which there was no evidence at all, to the December 2015 massacre of 14 people by a Muslim couple in San Bernardino, Calif. In interview after interview, Trump claimed that “there were numerous people that saw bombs all over the apartment floor” at the home of the California killers. There is no evidence whatsoever that that was true.
Trump also suggested that Obama might have been on the side of the Orlando mass murderer. He repeatedly said that “there’s something going on” with Obama because he didn’t use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” In fact, Obama has been behind the killing of more radical Islamists than any other president.
In mid-June, Raw Story profiled the Portland State University chapter of Students for Trump. The group has organized events on campus such as building a replica border wall called “the great wall of Trump.” At another event, the co-founder of the group, Volodymyr Kolychev, held a sign stating, “Every single BLM Martyr is a THUG.” Kolychev cites white nationalist Jared Taylor as one of his influences and regularly posts anti-Semitic and white nationalist memes and tropes on social media sites.
One June 21, Trump met in private with around 400 anti-LGBT evangelicals in New York City, including members of some of the most notorious anti-LGBT groups in the U.S. such as the American Family Association and the Family Research Council.
On June 22, ACT! for America circulated an email announcing that Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn had joined its board of directors in an advisory capacity. Flynn has advised Trump on a “range of issues” – according to an interview with CNN. Flynn is also scheduled to speak at ACT!’s national conference in September.
On July 2, Trump’s Twitter account tweeted out an image of Hillary Clinton with a headline reading “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” in a red Star of David on a background of $100 bills. The campaign quickly took it down and tweeted a new image where the Star of David was replaced with a circle. It was reported that the image originated on a racist and antisemitic section of the 8Chan web forum.