July 7, 2020
President Donald Trump—who posted a video of one of his supporters whooping the phrase, “White Power,” just last week on Twitter—spent Monday morning, July 6, bashing NASCAR’s decision to prohibit Confederate flags at its races; while also falsely asserting that a top Black driver, Darrell (Bubba) Wallace, had engaged in a hoax involving a noose found in his garage stall.
Trump’s reference to the Confederate flag—and its role in a sport followed by the mostly white fans among whom the president remains popular—was “the latest remark by the president as he tries to rally his culturally conservative base behind his struggling re-election effort,” The New York Times reported.
While NASCAR and other organizations have moved to retire symbols of the Confederacy, and lawmakers in Mississippi voted to bring down the state flag featuring the Confederate emblem, Trump has increasingly used racist language and references to portray himself as a protector of the history of the American South. He has called the phrase “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate,” and he has repeatedly tried to depict pockets of violence during protests against entrenched racism as representative of the protest movement as a whole.
The president also delivered official speeches over the weekend that also emphasized defending American heritage, although he avoided explicit references to totems of the Confederacy.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter on Monday.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina and a friend of the president, departed from his usual praise on Monday, saying that he disagreed with Trump’s tweet.
“They’re trying to grow the sport,” Graham said, according to the CNN reporter Manu Raju, referring to NASCAR’s ban on confederate flags, which it announced last month. “And I’ve lived in South Carolina all my life and if you’re in business, the Confederate flag is not a good way to grow your business.”
Graham, who is facing a strong challenge from Jaime Harrison, a Black Democrat, in his re-election bid, according to the Times, said that “one way you grow the sport is you take images that divide us and ask that they not be brought into the venue. That makes sense to me.” He said that Mr. Wallace does not have “anything to apologize for,” and that his fellow drivers should be applauded for supporting him.
The noose incident last month at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama came to an end after F.B.I. officials, who were called in by NASCAR, found that the knot had been tied into the rope as early as October 2019, well before anyone would have known that Mr. Wallace would be assigned that stall for the race.
Another NASCAR driver, Tyler Reddick, replied to Trump on Twitter Monday, saying, “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
According to the Times, Trump’s tweet came just days after he delivered a divisive speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota as part of the July 4 holiday, in which he denounced Democrats as radical anarchists and said that children are taught in schools to “hate” the United States.
“Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities,” the presient said in what was clearly a campaign speech.
Research contact: @nytimes