In July 2016, Donald Trump borrowed an anti-Semitic image from a racist social-media account to attack Hillary Clinton. When this sparked a controversy, the Republican candidate tried to pretend that the star of David he'd used was actually just a star from a sheriff's badge.
This was, of course, utterly bonkers, but Trump seemed to realize he'd stumbled into a mess and didn't want to be associated with overt anti-Semitic bigotry. His solution was to ask the public to believe that the star of David in one of his tweets merely looked like the star of David.
All of this came to mind yesterday watching a Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidate run into a related controversy. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker canceled a fundraiser with a conservative film producer who until Wednesday used a rendering of a swastika as her Twitter profile picture.
The trouble started when the GOP candidate agreed to attend a fundraiser at the Texas home of Bettina Sofia Viviano-Langlais, who used what appeared to be a swastika as her Twitter profile picture.
When the Walker campaign was asked about this, a spokesperson for the Republican initially said yesterday morning, "This is clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic."
In other words, according to Team Walker, the swastika only looked like a swastika, when in fact it was a group of hypodermic needles that had been arranged in the shape of a swastika — which is totally different.
The Republican campaign wasn't pro-swastika, of course, but as of yesterday morning, its first instinct was to dismiss concerns about a supporter who equated vaccine requirements and a Nazi symbol.
As the day progressed, it apparently dawned on Walker's political operation that this wasn't such a good idea, and by midday, the scheduled fundraiser had been canceled.
"Despite the fact that the apparent intent behind the graphic was to condemn government vaccine mandates," the campaign eventually said, "the symbol used is very offensive and does not reflect the values of Herschel Walker or his campaign."
Stepping back, it's still not altogether clear exactly what Walker's campaign is all about. Over the summer, as the retired football player and Texas resident expressed an interest in a Senate campaign in Georgia, The Associated Press reported that Walker's record includes allegations that he "repeatedly threatened his ex-wife's life, exaggerated claims of financial success and alarmed business associates with unpredictable behavior." The same article referenced the Republican's "long struggle with mental illness."
A month later, Walker — now a Georgia resident — filed the paperwork for a Republican campaign, which was quickly endorsed by Donald Trump, thanks in part to the athlete's support for anti-election lies.
Walker has a bare-bones website that includes effectively no information about the candidate, his ideas, or why he believes it'd be a good idea to elect the first-time candidate to the Senate.
As for his schedule, CNN reported a few weeks ago that Walker, at least at this point, is doing almost no campaigning: "So far, the campaign is placing Walker in tightly controlled events and limiting his interviews to friendly outlets like Fox News. Otherwise, Walker's schedule keeps him largely behind closed doors."
Or put another way, Walker probably won't answer questions on the campaign trail today about yesterday's swastika controversy because he probably won't be on the campaign trail today.