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As the weekend ended, news broke that a video depicting a fake image of President Donald J. Trump murdering reporters had been played at a Trump-owned resort hosting an event for his supporters. This video is far from the first involving fake Trump-related imagery to circulate widely – a notable example occurred just earlier this year when the president tweeted a fake video of himself crashing a Democratic presidential debate. However, the Trump administration is distancing itself from this most recent fake video.
Yesterday, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said that President Trump “strongly condemns” the video that made headlines the day prior. The White House also added that Trump has yet to watch the video – he condemned the video based purely on what he had heard about it even before seeing it. At the time of Grisham’s statement, President Trump had yet to comment directly on the matter, though Trump 2020 campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh denied the campaign’s involvement with the video and said that campaign does not “condone” violence.
Although the video in question first became a topic of national interest on Sunday, the event at which the video was played occurred many days earlier. The group American Priority held a conference for Trump supporters at the Trump National Doral Miami resort, and at this event, the controversial video was included in a “meme exhibit.” According to American Priority, none of the conference’s organizers watched or greenlit the video for inclusion in the exhibit. Although this remark from American Priority implies a slip in the chain of command, the organization simultaneously commented that the conference’s conversations against politically-motivated violence were being ignored in favor of stories about the video.
In the video, President Trump’s head is attached to the body of a gunman. This character, who wears a pinstriped suit and a pair of sunglasses commonly associated with the “deal with it” meme, opened fire on a building labeled the “Church of Fake News.” Many of the people in attendance of this church didn’t have faces – instead, they had the logos of anti-Trump media outlets where a face would normally go. Some church attendees appeared to be actual people, rather than organizations, who have often criticized the president. These people include Hilary Clinton, Rosie O’Donnell, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and the late John McCain, whose daughter Meghan McCain said that any person with sound morals would see the video as vile.
Before Grisham and the White House disavowed the video, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) condemned it. WHCA president John Karl called on all Americans to join the WHCA in its condemnation. Karl also said that the WHCA has warned President Trump many times that his rhetoric could lead to anti-media violence from his supporters.
Violence against journalists has occurred during the Trump presidency, with perhaps the most notable example being the mass shooting at a Maryland newspaper office last year. That attack, which killed five people, is among the deadliest anti-journalist mass shootings to ever occur on American soil.