Trump may have claimed he was the “least racist person in this room” during Thursday night’s debate, but one of his supporters at a Friday rally in Florida seemed to make no such pretenses, flashing what appeared to be white power hand sign behind the president as he spoke.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the apparent sign, which occurred while the president was speaking to a packed rally at The Villages, a massive luxury retirement community in Florida.
The alleged gesture follows a video in June, also from The Villages, where in a heated exchange between pro- and anti-Trump demonstrators, a Trump supporter reportedly yelled “Trump 2020” and “white power”.
The president retweeted the now-deleted video, according to NPR.
The OK hand symbol, which resembles the letters W and P, for white power, was adopted first ironically online in 2017, then un-ironically after that, as a symbol for white supremacy, according to hate monitoring group the Anti-Defamation League.
White supremacist Brenton Tarrant, for example, threw up the OK during a court appearance following his arrest for allegedly massacring 50 people at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Roger Stone, the president’s former advisor, was also pictured flashing an OK hand sign with a group of Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, whom he hired as personal security at a 2018 Republican conference.
Trump has long maintained that he is not racist, and he recently told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “Let me be clear again: I condemn the KKK. I condemn all white supremacists. I condemn the Proud Boys.”
But on multiple occasions, the president has either half-heartedly condemned, or openly voiced approval of, people with white supremacist ideas.
During the debate on Thursday, the former vice president seized on the president’s explicit and implicit appeals to racism, which groups like the Proud Boys have taken to be a rallying cry.
“Abraham Lincoln here is one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history. He pours fuel on every single racist fire — every single one,” Mr Biden said.
He also added: “This guy is a dog whistle as big as a fog horn.”
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was the subject of a foiled kidnapping plot by vigilante groups, and Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar have both said the president’s rhetoric has fueled hate-filled violence against them personally and fomented racism more broadly.