Sometimes, Donald Trump publishes his own offensive online content. And once in a while, he promotes others' offensive online content.
If there was ever a tweet tailor-made for promotion by President Trump, it might be this one: A video by an account called "Cowboys for Trump" in which the speaker begins by saying, "The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." The speaker quickly qualifies that he's not speaking literally. At precisely midnight, the president felt this was the kind of message that people needed to see. "Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!" he said in a retweet.
As always, context matters. In this case, the president was promoting a video featuring Couy Griffin, who leads a group called Cowboys for Trump, who was filmed making the comments at a New Mexico church on May 17.
As a Daily Beast report noted, Griffin was at the church "to defy a public safety order pertaining to the coronavirus."
Nevertheless, the president's supporter added that he wasn't calling for Democrats' death in a "physical" sense, but rather, in a "political sense." Griffin nevertheless added in a Daily Beast interview that he believes some Democratic governors may be guilty of treason, the punishment for which is deadly.
"You get to pick your poison: you either go before a firing squad, or you get the end of the rope," Griffin said.
Asked about far-right protestors and their willingness to consider violence in response to coronavirus-related restrictions, the Cowboys for Trump leader added, "I'll tell you what, partner, as far as I'm concerned, there's not an option that's not on the table."
It's against this backdrop that the president decided to promote this guy's comments, complete with the "only good Democrat is a dead Democrat" remark.
Maybe Trump retweeted the video without watching it; maybe he watched it and liked what he saw. We'll probably never know for sure. Either way, it's unsettling when a sitting American president promotes content like this.
A White House spokesperson told TPM in a statement that Trump and his administration "condemn violence in all forms as we have stated many times."
I wish that were entirely true, but whether the White House is prepared to acknowledge this or not, the president has made comments about political violence that are hard to forget.
In June 2017, after Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that the president has never "promoted or encouraged violence," the Washington Post noted that the claim was "laughable," adding, "Even if you don't believe Trump has technically incited violence (which he has been sued for), he clearly nodded toward violence at his campaign rallies. Sometimes it was veiled; other times it was unmistakable. Sometimes he was talking about self-defense, but it was clear he was advocating for a 'form of violence.'"
There are plenty of examples to bolster the point. As regular readers may recall, in late 2018, Trump publicly celebrated a Republican congressman for his unprovoked violence toward a journalist. What's more, during his time as a candidate, Trump frequently seemed to encourage violence toward protesters who disrupted his rallies.
With this in mind, when the president directs the public to a video saying, "The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat," it's tough to shrug it off as meaningless.