Since the beginning of the Trump presidency, white-supremacist groups, including self-described neo-Nazis, have increasingly and boldly appeared in public. They have killed counterprotesters, beaten people, and fired guns into crowds. White supremacists have clearly been energized by the president and his agenda. And rather than distancing himself from their bigotry and violence, Trump has refused to specifically and unequivocally denounce them. Instead, the president seems intent on portraying them as generally good people with a few bad apples among them.
The role that Trump has played in fanning the flames of this violent hatred became a major discussion in the world of professional sports over the past week after comments from a popular ESPN host, Jemele Hill. In several tweets, she criticized Trump and bluntly labeled him a “white supremacist.” Her comment spurred calls for her to be fired and on Friday, the president himself tweeted: “ESPN is paying a really big price for its politics (and bad programming). People are dumping it in RECORD numbers. Apologize for untruth!” His press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said Hill’s comments were a fireable offense, saying ESPN “should hold anchors to a fair and consistent standard.” The First Amendment implications of the president and his administration publicly attacking the free and constitutionally protected speech of a member of the news media are vast. Hill’s comments and the president’s response come amid a political debate consuming the world of professional sports about athletes engaging in protest.
The NFL season is now underway. There’s a lot of discussion about the political stance that a handful of athletes have begun taking, namely protesting during the national anthem. Some players have raised a black-gloved fist. Others have sat or knelt during the national anthem, and several of the players who have chosen to protest have said that they’re doing it in response to racism and police brutality.
“I won’t stand until everything’s equal. I won’t stand until everybody has justice. I won’t stand until everybody has freedom,” Seattle Seahawks star defensive end Michael Bennett told CNN in August. “The things that America has built on, I think protesting the national anthem begins a conversation about the truth of America. I’m not protesting the flag. I’m actually trying to honor what we’re supposed to be honoring: the freedom of America, the equality of America, the justice for all, and the liberty. Those are things that I’m trying to remind people that we all fought for.”
Just days after that interview, Bennet was attending a boxing match in Las Vegas. And after the match there was an incident in a casino where Las Vegas police responded to what they say they thought was a shooting incident. And in their response, they went after Michael Bennett. They pointed a gun at him. They ordered him to the ground. And they handcuffed him as he protested that he had done nothing wrong. And parts of this were caught on video tape.
After the incident, Bennett released a statement saying that an officer told him that if he moved, the officer would, “blow my fucking head off.” Bennett said that the excessive use of force was unbearable and he wrote in a statement that he released, “I felt helpless as I lay there on the ground, handcuffed, facing the real-life threat of being killed. All I could think of was: ‘I’m going to die for no other reason than I am black and my skin color is somehow a threat.’”
After Bennett went public with this story, the Las Vegas police attempted to get the NFL to punish Bennett, saying that he had unfairly accused them of racism. The league said it wasn’t going to do that.
Bennett’s teammate, NFL star Richard Sherman, spoke to reporters about the incident. “Mike is literally, you know, sitting, taking a stand, protesting, and doing everything he can to combat the exact thing that he experienced,” Sherman said. “And people are so worried about him sitting down during the national anthem that they completely missed that message a lot of times. They want to be more angry at the action than the message, and that’s an important part in part of the world we live in nowadays. I wish that people would take it for what it is and make a difference and go out there and try to combat against racism, fascism, unnecessary violence.”
The current media discussion of athletes daring to engage in protest seems to completely ignore several crucial points. First, NFL games are already dripping with politics and militarism, and they encourage a worship of the military and weapons of war as the one true form of patriotism. Second, they ignore the historical roots of athletes protesting. The black fist raised at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Muhammad Ali’s resistance to the war in Vietnam, and on, and on. And third, these commentaries act as though the First Amendment has some secret clause that says athletes cannot engage in nonviolent protest as though they’re supposed to surrender their humanity or their principles when they put on their helmet and uniform.
This debate isn’t new but it’s flared up over the past year because of an action that was taken last year by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He refused to stand for the national anthem and then had the audacity to speak out about racism and other systemic injustices when asked why he did it.
Colin Kaepernick explained his motives last year, saying: “Yes, I’ll continue to sit. I’m going to continue to stand with the people that have been oppressed. To me this is something that has to change and when there’s significant change and I feel like that flag represents who is supposed to represent and this country is representing people the way they’re supposed to, I’ll stand.”
Kaepernick’s action sparked reaction from pundits, celebrities, President Obama, and of course Donald Trump. “There was an article today that was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick [Kaepernick] up, because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump. Do you believe that? I said if I remember that one, I’m going to report it to the people of Kentucky, because they like it when people actually stand for the American flag, right?”
Trump was also joined by his ally and apparently rising GOP political star Kid Rock, in attacking Kaepernick at a concert, yelling, “Man, fuck Colin Kaepernick!”
Kaepernick was a highly ranked quarterback in the NFL, yet he no longer has a team. In fact, he wasn’t even invited to training camp. His critics say it’s because he had a bad season last year, which is debatable: the 49ers were terrible, but Kaepernick’s stats were pretty solid. But others say it’s because he is a liability because of his politics.
During a recent episode of FOX News’s show The Five, Jesse Watters said, “The guy’s a loser on the field, he’s a loser off the field, bottom line,” adding, “Everybody hates him.” Co-host Greg Gutfeld chimed in, saying, “I feel like this is another arena where identity politics invades and divides, because it creates a prism that only allows for one perspective. It’s got to be racist, if they do this, you’ve got to you have to hate this person because of their skin color, that’s what identity politics does.”
Supporters of Kaepernick, including the NAACP, have alleged that the reason the Colin Kaepernick is not currently on an NFL team’s roster is because of racism.
Last weekend, activist and columnist Shaun King issued a public call for a boycott of the NFL, and he spent NFL Sunday hanging out with Colin Kaepernick. On this week’s episode of Intercepted we aired an excerpt of our interview with King. Below is our complete conversation where we had a wide-ranging discussion on his boycott campaign, the Trump presidency, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and the violence of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.
Listen to the interview here:
Jeremy Scahill: Shaun King, welcome to Intercepted.
Shaun King: I’m glad to be here, man.
JS: So I want to get into a number of things about Hillary Clinton and Steve Bannon and politics in general, but I want to start off with the most recent campaigns that you’ve been spearheading and you’ve been involved with. First, let’s talk about the NFL. The season has just kicked off, a lot of excitement across the country for football, you, over the weekend called for a boycott of the NFL, including don’t even watch clips of NFL games.
JS: And part of your analysis centers around what happened to the former quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, Colin Kaepernick. Explain why you’re calling for a boycott of the NFL.
SK: Well I decided several months ago that I wasn’t going to watch any of the games, in huge part because I’ve become friends with Colin, and it was just painful personally for me to see what I thought was a grave injustice happening to him. It was really like a friend seeing a friend lose, not just his job, but his dream. This is something he’s fought for his whole life, he’s in the prime of his career, he’s 29 years old. And he had just fought back through several injuries, and is feeling great and is healthy, and he took this peaceful stand against injustice, which I encouraged him to take. Like, I supported him through it, encouraged him personally and directly to continue doing it, not thinking that he would be blacklisted from the league. Like, I thought it might change his reputation. I thought he might get a cold shoulder. But my thought was he’s too big to fail, in a sense.
And a lot of athletes who I believe, who I’ve become friends with, said the same thing. A lot of guys who had rookie contracts were wondering like, “Hey, I might lose my job. Surely they won’t do this to Colin. Quarterback is the most in-demand position. He’s solid. He’s smart. He has great character.” And even though I knew there was a possibility that he might struggle to find a job, I didn’t think it would come to this. And when I saw over and over again teams kind of strangely contorting themselves to justify not giving him a job, even though they desperately needed a quarterback, I made the personal decision in June, like, “Ok, I can’t watch this. This is, I don’t support how they’ve done it. I don’t support how they’re treating him.”
And I had other issues with the league, be it CTE, or how they were, would constantly give other guys a pass for genuinely horrendous behaviors. And so I made the decision but I wasn’t really ready to ask other people to follow me. And there was a part of me thought from June until September that, that he would get a job, and I think it’s the foolish optimist in me that thought people would be able to look past his protest and the few things that he said to the media, and look at their need as a team. Be it the Jets, or twenty different teams in a league that at least need a strong backup quarterback.
And, here we are in September and he didn’t have a position and it looked like he’s not going to get one. And I literally made the decision at the last minute, just maybe three or four days ago, that I wanted to encourage people to take this stand with me. And for me, there are many, obviously I speak out a lot against police brutality, and for me, while there are many reasons, for me it’s very personal. And it’s that we live in a time where a man very quietly peacefully and intelligently just stated his problems with police brutality and injustice in America, and had his career taken from him because of it.
JS: Now for people that didn’t follow this closely explain how this started with Colin Kaepernick. What action he took, why he took it, and then what he’s done since then?
SK: So, I spent most of the day with Colin yesterday, and my wife and my mother-in-law were there. So while I obsess over the details, they didn’t and my wife asked him that same question. Like, “Colin, can you tell us how this happened?” And Colin said he’s always you know he’s always been bothered by police brutality but he never understood it as the systemic problem that it was. And he’s a young guy, he’s 21 when he came into the league, and he literally started auditing a few classes at Berkeley, and from those classes began understanding what systemic racism was. Began understanding the systems behind mass incarceration or white supremacy or police brutality. And he was doing this with very few people, including myself, not knowing. I had no idea he was auditing classes. He was kind of undergoing a personal metamorphosis, and he was doing it while he was recovering from the surgeries that he had had.
And it just caused him to be more acutely aware and sensitive to it. And during last summer he saw the deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and they just affected him personally. And really without talking to anybody, he decided at a pre-season game that he wasn’t going to stand up for the national anthem. And so Colin and I had been talking for couple of months at that point, and I think it really was a spur of the moment, gut decision, where he heard the anthem and just decided like, “I’m not going to stand up for that. I don’t feel like it. I don’t believe it.” And he did that for two weeks before anybody even noticed. These were just preseason games. And when they noticed, a local reporter asked him about it at the end of the game, and that he hadn’t prepared any bullets and he just said: Listen, I’m disturbed by the crisis of police brutality in America. I don’t believe that America keeps its promises to black people in particular. And, you know he was doing this to be in solidarity with victims of police brutality.
And I was working with those families: Philando Castile’s family, Alton Sterling’s family. And they were deeply moved by it. And I think when he learned that these families who rarely get anything that resembles justice, when he learned that they were touched by his demonstration, I think he decided to stick with it. And what could’ve just been, yeah I did a couple of weeks and I’m moving on, when he saw that it mattered to everyday people and it mattered to families of victims, he decided to double down and stick with it and very quietly, peacefully, he shifted from having a seat to taking a knee during the national anthem, and it became a national conversation where after games there be dozens of reporters there just to ask him what he was thinking. And people were taken aback because what they found was a bright, brilliant young man who had ample reason to do what he was doing and could explain it very articulately. And I think people thought maybe there was no depth there, like a stereotype of an athlete.
But I — he had a 4.0 in high school, he was a college graduate, he’s a bright guy, who if he didn’t play football could’ve gone on to do many things with his life, and through all of this he’s been very thoughtful and sensitive. He was adopted when he was a baby, his adopted family is completely white. And they love him, you know, in amazing ways, but he grew up seeing and hearing from his white family things that have helped inform him to talk about this in a way that I was blown away by. That disarmed people. And I had the thought, man, that he was so careful and methodical about how he handled this that, not that the country would change, but I had never thought he would be, in essence, banned from the league. And that’s that’s what we have here, a guy who, in the prime of his physical career, was not even brought in for a serious look from many teams. The Ravens and the Seahawks mentioned that they considered him, but it was never really serious.
JS: And I want to talk about that, because the flip side of this argument, I don’t mean to say that there’s only two ways of looking at this, but you have NFL commentators and others who are saying, “Look at the stats that he put up last year, he had a terrible season.”
SK: He didn’t, you know?
JS: I’m saying, but this is what is said. That he clearly had peaked, and was on his way down. What’s interesting is that you have, I’m from Wisconsin, so I’m biased, the best quarterback in the country, Aaron Rodgers, who is not known for being a political guy, actually very recently came out and said, “No, I think that Colin Kaepernick should be on a team, and that this is political. This is not about his skills.”
SK: Yeah, you know when I saw Aaron say this, like, I like Aaron a lot, and like you, like he’s not a guy that takes hard stands on political issues. And so when he said something I was very curious as to what he was going to say. He’s got a great football mind. He’s been a competitor of Colin’s for years. They’ve had amazing games against one another. And he said emphatically, without hesitation, like, no this is not a football decision, that had he not taken the stand that he that he took, he would be on the team right now. He would be the quarterback of the 49ers, and he is, he is a franchise quarterback. The offered him $120 million deal. He took the team to the Superbowl. He took the team deep into the playoffs. He made the probowl. Even last year, he had 18 touchdowns and four interceptions. He had a 90.1 quarterback rating, which is one of the best in the league. And so, he was on a terrible team. And any expert would tell you that the 49ers have badly mismanaged there. Yesterday they lost by 40 points without him.
And yet he still found a way to have good stats. He was voted by the players on the team as the best player on the field and off the field last year, which was a huge honor for him, and I think his thought was, talent, his talent and character would get him a position. He believed that. And so he works out six days a week and has been. He’s in incredible shape. He’s, he could start for a team right away. Yet, here we are. He has not even been given a backup position. and so there have been a lot of lies about him, like people said that he wouldn’t take a backup position. That’s a lie. He would. People said he also would not even accept a smaller contract. That’s a lie. He also hasn’t even been offered any contracts. And so, people have found all types of ways to say that he’s not good anymore. But here he is, 29 years old, injury free, with a great record.
He set multiple NFL records that still stand. He set several college records that still stand. He’s not just a runner, which is a stereotype of black quarterbacks, that people sometimes put on him. He’s a great passer, he’s a team guy. He is, in essence, being blacklisted from the team.
JS: And you, and you have guys who have criminal convictions.
JS: Who have done time in prison, I mean Michael Vick and the whole, you know, dog torturing thing, and he you know he comes back into the league and there is there was also a lot of racism in the way that Michael Vick was covered. But, but these guys, and some of them are white players who have all sorts of trouble with the law.
JS: And we’re not talking about a guy who broke the law here, we’re talking about a guy who nonviolently took a political position.
SK: Well, that’s what’s disturbing man, is he is the stereotype of what black men are told they have to be to be successful. Like he, he is quiet. He literally stays in at night, he doesn’t party or go to the clubs, he’s never been in legal trouble a day in his life. He’s a college graduate, a bright guy, he’s in a committed relationship with an upstanding woman. I mean I hate to even list these things, but he is everything young black men are told they will need to be to rise up any type of corporate ladder. And —
JS: Well, except —
SK: Except black. Yeah, and here’s the thing that other black men in the league, as you noted, have done horrific things. And I think it gets to the fact that the decision is actually extremely political. I tried to lift up the fact that at least seven team owners in the NFL have given a million dollars or more to Donald Trump’s campaign. People can universally agree that NFL ownership is the most conservative ownership group of any sports league in the world.
And I think what they’re trying to do is to make an example of Colin. And I think it’s working. Last year on any given day, you would see dozens, as many as 50 people demonstrate. And, now, yesterday I think there were five. Now that the season has started, that number may even go down to four, three. And I think guys are spooked. Guys have told me, particularly guys on rookie contracts, guys that don’t have Colin’s name or reputation have told me, “I can’t do this man. If they do to me what they did to him, I haven’t made the money he’s made and I have no backup plan.”
So it effectively did what I believe those owners wanted to do. It spooked the majority of guys, with a rare exception of guys who have marched to the beat of their own drum their whole life, like Marshawn Lynch. I know Marshawn. Like, he says what he wants, like I saw him before a game last week like literally eating chicken wings on a field. Like he eats skittles before plays, when he gets a touchdown, he does a flip and grabs his balls. Like, (laughs), that’s Marshawn Lynch. So he doesn’t care what people think. And so, so he took a seat yesterday.
So basically the only guys who are doing it at this point are guys who are firm in their position. But all the other guys who are doing it, they’ve been spooked and they’re backing down. I think that that was what they wanted, was to freak enough guys out that they’ll back down. The only people that are left are kind of revolutionary guys, guys who, you know, are radicals at heart. And a lot of them, ironically, are all from, all born and raised in Oakland or in the Bay Area, so they grew up with this spirit of Black Panther education, that’s Marshawn, he, a kid mentors is Marcus Peters from the Chiefs, also grew up in Oakland, and he, you know he took a seat. So a lot of these guys know each other.
JS: You know, it’s also interesting, this kind of mealy mouth line, “Well, that these guys shouldn’t be political.” The entire framing of the NFL for many years has been overtly political in celebration of the U.S. war machine. You have the jets that are flying overhead, Ted Cruz was at a game this weekend celebrating with this American bald eagle that went over a huge American flag tarp.
SK: And it was like a bald eagle on steroids, it was the largest bald. Like, when I first saw it I was like, “Is that real?” Like he was but he was bragging because the flag took up the entire field from corner to corner. I think they literally found the world’s largest bald eagle, and the world’s largest flag. And there’s money being exchanged here between the military and the NFL They actually are paying for a lot of these demonstrations that people didn’t even understand that marketing dollars are at play.
JS: Also Lockheed Martin, which is one of the biggest war contractors, perhaps making more money than almost any corporation off the US War Machine, major sponsor, they have their, their commercials there. You have the presentation of the colors, the national anthem. Also, and it’s not like, “Oh look, we’re all coming together to celebrate our country.” It is overtly about celebrating the part of our country that wages wars.
JS: That increasingly a majority of people are against. So the politics is already drilled. into the whole apparatus. It would be one thing if we had some massive celebration of the First Amendment or the Fourth Amendment, you know, as part of the patriotism, but it’s just one part of America that’s being honored and that is the militaristic component of this country.
SK: Yeah. Yeah, I agree, and in spite of that people. aren’t looking at the nuanced nature of really what’s at play here. Even the fact that they brought back Hank Williams, Jr., who for the first time in almost six years will be doing his Monday Night Football anthem. Literally, the literally waited until President Obama left office, because he said horrendous, racist things about President Obama, they waited until Obama left office and they brought him right back to open up for Monday Night Football, so for anybody to say, “Hey, Colin shouldn’t be bringing politics to the field.” It’s already there.
And I think the we have crossed a point where if nine months ago people were saying, “He shouldn’t be political,” or other people are saying, “This is just a football decision.” I think with comments from guys like Aaron Rodgers, but a few dozen athletes across the league, many of them who have been lifelong competitors of Colin, have all come out to say, “Listen, cut the crap. This is just about him not liking his politics and not liking the stand that he took.”
And that’s why I thought a boycott was necessary. Like that’s not ok. It’s not ok for a place like this to boot a man in the prime of his life because he took a peaceful stand against something that millions of us believe we should all be taking a stand against and that’s police brutality. It’s not a stand against police, but a stand against police brutality, it’s a stand against injustice.
JS: Is your position as of now, that you would call for an end to the boycott if Colin Kaepernick is signed, or is it, do you feel that the issues are deeper and that that wouldn’t be enough of an action — I mean, I’m sure you’d want to watch your friend play football.
SK: Yeah, you know, well for me, personally, my personal motivation is that the league has made an enormous mistake like I — my relationship, I’ve been a lifelong football fan. I’ve watched it little since I was a young boy.I’ve probably watched every Super Bowl I have been alive to watch, I’ve done fantasy football, I’m a huge sports junkie. So I missed it yesterday, like it was not a small thing for me personally.
But this my relationship and love for the league is like irreparably harmed. Even if he got hired tomorrow, I would be glad for him but the NFL has soiled this for a lot of people. I think I would call for an end to the boycott if he got signed. But there are many other things that we are calling for in this week and next week will will begin to add to what it is we hope the league will do.
We’ll also begin, as uncomfortable as it will be for all of us, we’ll begin to call out a lot of the sponsors as well. And I think when the league I think will see the ratings go down they went down for the first Thursday night game, I think they’ll be down significantly for the games yesterday. And as we continue to do that, I think that will have one impact but I think when we start to target sponsors, We’ll see how that has an impact as well.
JS: Well and just as we wrap up this subject, I find it utterly despicable the way that the name of Pat Tillman has been invoked as a, as somehow a response to people supporting ColIn Kaepernick. The people, you know, Pat Tillman, of course, was an NFL player who then enlisted in Special Forces, he became a Green Beret in the aftermath of 9/11 and that’s largely the end of the story as it’s told by the NFL and by many of these white players who are saying I’m going to have Pat Tillman’s name on my shoes, that’s my political stance.
Pat Tillman, though, went through an incredible transformation post-9/11, he was corresponding with Noam Chomsky he was writing letters about what he saw as the moral bankruptcy of U.S. foreign policy. He had actually come to oppose the very war that he signed up to fight post-9/11 because of what sounds like a similar process process to Colin Kaepernick.
JS: Where he studies these things, he starts reading, he’s actually there. And of course his death in Afghanistan which was written off to friendly fire is still the subject of intense investigation by people who are close to him, and some of the people that served with him.
SK: Yeah, you know when you even compared him I think people who knew Pat well and people who know Colin well, think they’re a whole lot alike. And they both had a fierce love for this country, and Colin, a lot of what Colin does is because he wants to see this country get better. And people who try to people use caricatures of Colin and of Pat that don’t represent like the fullness of who they really are and were.
And it’s ugly to see people use this, like, moment in time of Pat’s life to try to bash Colin over the head and say this is what a real NFL player does and even when you present to them the facts of what Pat was saying about about the wars and about the, the unjust nature of them, people don’t even care.
JS: Well, it’s, you know, we had Tavis Smiley on the show a while back and he wrote this excellent book about the last year of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life.
JS: And one of the things that Tavis Smiley said was that Martin Luther King wouldn’t be allowed to attend the Martin Luther King Day celebration in modern times, because he was, he had become a militant anti-imperialist and he is remembered only for, “I have a dream and I want my children to be able to go to school.” You know? If he was known for why I oppose the war in Vietnam, it’d be a very different story.
And I think there is an analog here where it’s like as long as the black athletes are doing the bread and circus and they’re making a lot of money for a lot of corporations and a lot of white owners, then they’re good black people. Bt as soon as they acknowledge the reality of so many black and brown people in this country, then they become unacceptable and they can’t, they can’t go in the league that they’ve actually ascended to the throne of being in the Super Bowl in.
SK: Yeah and you know the other person that we should look at would be Muhammad Ali. And how we view him today versus how he was truly viewed in the time and like I saw an interview with him recently when he talked about how he struggled to get any endorsements. Like, right now, we think you know Muhammad Ali Must have been the Michael Jordan of endorsements in the sixties or seventies. Quite the contrary. He was, in the interview, he was talking about how he was struggling financially. Not only because he had been banned from boxing, but no one would touch him with a ten-foot pole. Like he couldn’t do, he literally was doing random local advertisements to pay the mortgage and we view him now retrospectively as the greatest of all time but how he was viewed in history is totally different.
So it’s, it’s disturbing and Tavis is right, you know, that we we sometimes take a slice of someone’s life and then kind of reduce their entire existence to that tiny sliver of who they were.
JS: Well and that sliver has to comport with our idea of how those people should be remembered in order to preserve our standing in society, so, you know, when you hear Republicans talk about Martin Luther King it’s you know it’s the classic, you always hear, you know, they’re always just talking about like Martin as though Martin Luther King was a precursor to Rodney King, “Can we all just get along?”When in reality anyone who knows, who has spent even a few moments studying you know who Dr. King really was, knows that none of this. It’s sins of omission.
SK: Yeah you know sure and then. And not just that, it dehumanizes Pat Tillman, it dehumanizes Martin Luther King. Like, his best friend, Ralph Abernathy, in the late eighty’s wrote a biography and in the end in the book, he referenced the fact that they smoked weed. And you gotta realize this is in the eighty’s, the way that people thought about marijuana is very different even than it is now.
JS: Well, except Jeff Sessions.
SK: Right, right. But people people like hated Ralph Abernathy for that. Even like other leaders in the movement couldn’t believe that he alluded to what at that time was seen as an imperfection. Like he, you know, he obsessively smoked a pack or two of cigarettes a day, Dr. King did, you can actually see a few, there are very few pictures of him smoking cigarettes because the people around him never want those pictures taken. But I love those pictures. I don’t smoke weed, I don’t smoke cigarettes, but when I see these pictures of him I realize like there’s a, there’s a version of this man that we’ve been told about the doesn’t represent fully who he was.
I read this letter recently from, where he’s talking about really basic marital problems that he was having with his wife and they were and they were awful like he said they’d gone months and months without talking. And I read that as like any married person should read these letters because for me it immediately made him relatable. Like he was having the same problems that every married person has, but we reduce these people to statues, to memorials with, with a few catchphrases and it strips them of something that that makes them relatable and we make a huge mistake when we do that.
JS: And, speaking of memorials, I want to talk to you about Charlottesville and about this what has become a very widespread campaign to try to take down these memorials of Confederate figures, which many of them, as you well know, do not date back to the time of the Confederacy, they were built at key moments in much more recent American history as a way of directly confronting demands for equal rights or progress that was made on local levels in some of these municipalities.
But I specifically want to ask you about this campaign that you spearheaded that seems to be gaining traction. And that is to identify and have charges brought against some of the men who were involved with this beating of a young black man named Deandre Harris in a parking garage.
SK: The parking garage of the Charlottesville Police Department, which is crazy. Like they were literally adjacent to the Charlottesville Police Department.
JS: So, start from the beginning here. Explain the context of who Deandre Harris is, what he was doing there, and what happened.
SK: Yeah, so let me break it down. Deandre Harris, a great kid, 19 years old, he serves as a special assistant in a special education classroom at a local elementary school. I hate to say it like this, but no criminal record, you know, great reputation and like thousands of counter protesters who wanted to just go there to show white supremacists who have showed up in huge numbers in their home — he lives in Charlottesville, he’s from there. And all these protesters who came there to demonstrate as white supremacist, as neo-Nazis but came from out of town, they came from all over the country, literally flew in from I’ve counted as many as 25 different states. This was a huge gathering.
JS: Well, and the car that killed, the car that was driven by the man who killed Heather Heyer was from, it was an Ohio licensed plate a car.
SK: Absolutely and so these guys came in from out of town and so Deandre and Heather and others who lived there locally just said, “Hey, we have to show up.” And they had no plan, no strategy, they had never seen, like most of us, they’d never seen something like this with their own eyes, but they just wanted to be there to let people know, “Hey, this is not OK.” So there was a march of white supremacists who were going through the streets of downtown Charlottesville and Deandre and a group of others were also walking on the sidewalk alongside them, constantly yelling back and forth at them and one of the white supremacists had a flag or flag pole with like a speared tip on the end of it. And these were things that a lot of guys, a lot of guys had throughout the downtown area.
And not Deandre, but another guy and a white supremacist started wrestling over that flag. And the white supremacist who we have not been able to identify, gets the flag and gets ready to ram the tip of it into Deandre’s friend. And as they do that, Deandre takes a swing at a guy and misses.
And all of a sudden, in an instant, a group of guys who are marching, many of who didn’t even see what I just described to you. Like, all of this is on film in four different angles, you see it literally from every side, they just converge right on Deandre. And one guy knocks him to the ground, and then at least five guys maybe six, just began to pummel him and literally jumping in the air, coming down with their feet, their fist with pipes, flagpoles and just mauled him for what Deandre said felt like minutes but in a probably being more like twenty seconds.
But it was twenty seconds of nonstop beating. And, he finally was able to scramble out and he literally falls on his face even as he stumbles down in the parking lot again, and he stumbles literally right to the doorsteps of the police department. At that time, he didn’t even know where he was being beaten was the parking lot for the Charlottesville Police Department.
And you see, in the videos, the police are right there. They saw the incident unfold, and if you see any videos from that day, police had taken such a hands-off approach, that they were letting almost anything go, to the point that we saw just a few weeks ago another member of the KKK literally pulled out a gun and shot at someone and the police were right there and just let him shoot. And he just kept on walking. Just an insane, an insanely mismanaged moment.
JS: How many of the individuals who beat Deandre Harris have been charged?
SK: So this is what’s crazy. So the day it happened, people from Charlottesville started messaging me right away and saying, “Listen, there’s a guy who was very badly beaten.” And several guys even said, “Hey, I’ve got photos, I’ve got videos.” and I posted the first images that I found on my timeline on Twitter and Facebook, and said, and it was, to me, what will become an iconic image because you see him on the ground, you see two men whose feet are completely off the ground as they jump up to come down on top of him, you see two weapons in mid-air coming down on him. And I just tweeted, “Let’s find out who these guys are.”
My thought was because of the size of my network and as tense of a moment as our country was in, that it would probably be a few days and we would find everybody there. Because within three days I had clear pictures of almost everyone involved.
JS: Some of them had some obfuscation of their face, but most of them were just openly —
SK: Yeah there’s one guy who has on really heavy goggles and a hat and ironically he is that, we’re now closer to finding him, but the first man that we found was a young man named Dan Borden, also from Ohio, a lot of these guys did come in from Ohio, and Dan Borden, it was actually a member of his family who contacted me and said that, “I know who that is.” And several of his high school classmates, he literally just finished high school year ago. And people pointed out several identifying objects, he had very distinct moles on his face and neck, and at that time all of his, of his social media profiles were still up. These guys had not thought through quickly enough to remove those things. And so once we clearly identified it was Dan Borden I tweeted, “Hey, we have identified Dan Borden.”
And probably, I mean, three days after we’d identified Dan Borden, several people began saying to me personally that they knew who another guy was and his name was Michael Alex Ramos. And they, people who knew him personally, people knew him when he lived in Florida, they knew him when he lived in metro Atlanta, and they sent me videos of him saying that he was a part of it. And we also had a video of Dan saying he did it. And so I felt very comfortable identifying Dan Borden and Michael Alex Ramos because we had videos of them admitting it. We had a treasure trove of photos from their own profiles of them there. Other videos of them there. I mean we looked at the style of their shoes, their shirts, identifying objects. So we identified them.
And several days later, someone from the Charlottesville Police Department contacted me and asked me if I would give them all the information I had and I did. A few days after that, some people, two different agents from the FBI reached out to me and asked me if I would give them everything I had and I did. And still, it was probably a week later and they had not arrested Dan Borden or Alex Ramos, and finally they issued arrest warrants, first for Dan, then for Alex and arrested them and charged them. And what was disturbing about it was that it’s clear that the only people they have identified are the people that we have identified. And, even in my conversations with the FBI agents, it was clear like they explicitly told me that everything they knew about the incident that they got from my timeline.
JS: Shaun King has more than three quarters of a million people following him on Twitter. And I remember when this started, you were basically crowdsourcing an investigation that should have been taking place on the part of law enforcement, particularly because this happened in the garage of the police department there, but just in general, when you have a gang beating of someone of this nature and it’s clear that the people who are doing it are motivated by racial hatred of the man that they’re beating.
But you crowdsourced it and people started coming to you with more photos, and people are looking over Facebook. I mean, to me it’s evidence of what Twitter is best at. You know, obviously it’s a cesspool of awfulness in some ways, but what you did there was you basically did this networked autonomous network of people that were investigating it.
SK: So yeah, so that can go wrong in a thousand different ways.
JS: And it does. Like, Reddit. Reddit is like, constantly identifying the wrong people.
SK: And so I knew that. And I also had a friend of mine, who was identified as the shooter of police officers in Texas, he was there in Dallas and he was a peaceful protester, but he had an AR-15 with him and he was literally put on television stations all over the world including CNN for almost two hours as being the shooter who killed multiple police officers there in Texas.
His life has never recovered from being misidentified as that. He has been — he had nothing to do with the shooting. He never knew the shooter.
JS: Well, same was true in Boston Marathon bombing, you know, you had the New York Post it with a very racist, not that it’s like uncommon for them to have a racist front page, but a racist front page completely flagrantly misidentifying a suspect.
SK: So, seeing all of that, I was extremely careful to not put out who I thought it might be or who it could be. So I literally, I kid you not, I Skyped with multiple white supremacists, who were there, who looked very much like the other guys, because I couldn’t, I couldn’t confirm if it was them or not. And I so badly. And there were two different guys, there was a man there with a red beard, and on two different occasions I was very convinced that we had found him. But all these guys at this point appeared to have deleted every trace of their social media existence. And so these other four guys we can’t identify at all.
And so I literally found guys, found their information, asked if they would FaceTime or Skype with me. And once, once they said yes, I assumed it’s probably not him. But sure enough, these were white supremacists who were there, who I Skyped with and interviewed to determine if it was them and it wasn’t. There’s a guy there who has goggles and a helmet on.
JS: You should do like a video series, Shaun King Skypes With White Supremacists.
SK: It was — the calls were terrible.
JS: I can’t even imagine.
SK: So they were — but was comical in this sense, that they were terrible guys who were there who were also very terrified at the idea of being misidentified. They didn’t have anything to do with it. And so, and to this day, their photos — I’m not too compassionate for white supremacists who are misidentified, I just knew I wasn’t going to be responsible for it. And so, I don’t know them man. And so, my mind is blown, that here we are, almost a month to the day and I have put these guys faces’ out. I even did the calculation. Those videos and their faces have been seen 10s of millions of times, and that, that, that I don’t have any warm leads on who these guys are, it just shocks the hell out of me.
JS: So as of now, you only have two, two of the individuals have been charged, and this was, and people can see the videos for themselves this was a gang beating of Deandre Harris, but only two of them are facing charges.
SK: Two have been charged, and there are at least three guys who faces we’ve put out. Two guys are very clear, and they both have very distinct looks, and I’ve shared, I’ve had every celebrity imaginable share these photos. I’ve had guys — I’ve shared them with the FBI, the local police, the state police. I even, people even said, “Shaun maybe these guys are, were not American, maybe they came down from Canada or something else.” But that we can’t identify them. People have even done for me photos where they change these guys facial hair and all that. I have no idea who these guys are. And I, I thought that once I shared the photos that it would take a few days, particularly once local, state and federal authorities got involved, here we are a month later and the only two people they arrested were the people we crowdsourced on Twitter. So crazy.
JS: Of course, Hillary Clinton’s memoir is out this week and that’s you know that’s the big the big topic of conversation in Washington etc. Steve Bannon just did his coming out moment on 60 Minutes to, you know, overtly say many of the things that people have been reading reports that he was saying internally in the White House. I want to start with Hillary Clinton. You were a big and prominent and early supporter of Bernie Sanders in his bid for the Democratic nomination in the primary process against Hillary Clinton. And, and right up to the end you were fighting to make that a reality.
And then when Hillary Clinton got the nomination, and I would say it was a pretty dirty process by which she got that nomination, I mean people talk about the the you know the e-mail scandals, one of the biggest scandals revealed by the Clinton campaign’s e-mails was the ways in which they were just playing completely dirty with Bernie Sanders. But you ultimately wrote a piece encouraging people who agree with you or are following you on social media to vote for Hillary Clinton. And you basically boiled it down to: Trump has to be stopped, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson can’t win, and, you know, you were very respectful of their campaigns, but you basically said, “I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton and that’s the right thing to do.”
Describe that decision, because I think a lot of people are still very torn about that and this issue of, you know, Hillary Clinton certainly is you know a politician of empire, you know we see that from her time as Secretary of State, as well as her time in the Senate. She has a questionable record going back decades on issues of race and crime and punishment in the United States but to defend that that that decision and why you why you felt it was the right thing to do.
SK: Well, it is a very difficult decision to defend. I mean I definitely felt like I was in a rock in a hard place. I felt early into Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination that there was a very real possibility — I wrote almost forty articles about Trump’s campaign, I felt very early on there was a chance that he could get the nomination and when he got the nomination, I wrote several pieces about the fairly distinct possibility that he could win.
And those pieces were widely panned, by the main — mocked by The Washington Post.
JS: Well, remember the Keith Ellison appearance on one of the Sunday shows where he said that Trump’s going to get the nomination and everybody laughed, they literally laughed at him.
SK: Yeah, so Keith Ellison is on the panel and he tells them, “listen.” He like pauses and he says, “Listen, I really think he could win this and they bust out in this like gregarious laugh.”
JS: Like, guffaws, “Hahaha, so funny!”
SK: And, then he looks at them, doesn’t laugh he looks at them, and he goes, “No, I’m serious actually.” And so Bernie knew that. A huge reason, I mean Bernie campaigned his heart out and he worked literally morning noon and night the people on his team worked people people gave their money their time their effort in huge part, because I believed, and still do to this day, that to defeat Donald Trump took an anti-Trump.
And if you could literally go into a lab and create a human being that is the antithesis of Donald Trump, they might come out looking just like Bernie Sanders. I mean like, you know, he is firmly philosophically politically against so much of what Donald Trump is against and they are, they are very different in terms of, of their character, the trajectory of their life, their upbringing.
And so when I got behind Bernie it was one because I believed in Bernie, I liked a lot of his policies and principles and ideals, but I also thought that he had the best chance of stopping Donald Trump. And I was terrified of what Donald Trump presidency would mean for the very people that we see him attacking now: for immigrants, for people who would be affected by police brutalities,, for the militarization of police I was terrified of what they would mean for our safety around the world, be it with nuclear weapons or war.
And so in so many different policy positions that he would take, I felt like Bernie could win and win debates with him, that Bernie could win votes in states that, where Hillary Clinton could not.
JS: Do you think he would have won?
SK: Oh I believe it. I strongly believe it. And I would defend that privately or publicly with anyone. I think every poll bore that out. Every poll up until the moment Bernie about how consistently had him four to fourteen points ahead of Donald Trump all the way through the election, and they still do to this very day. Bernie has the highest approval rating of any active politician in America. And his approval rating is almost thirty points higher than Hillary Clinton’s.
And so I just feel like he would have been a force of nature. And Bernie understood, what Hillary does acknowledge in her book, is he understood that there were deep emotions involved in why everybody was voting in this election on every side. And so Bernie was appealing to massive crowds, and, and so he would fill stadiums up all over the country including in deeply conservative states.
So when he lost I was incredibly hurt. I fought really hard for his campaign, even kind of alienating myself at the Daily News where I was working. The Daily News wrote several op-eds blasting Bernie and I wrote a rebuttal pieces to those op-eds. I wrote several strong pieces why I didn’t think Hillary Clinton was the right candidate. So it’s not a copout, but I did wait, I wanted to see what Bernie was going to do because I thought there was a possibility that he would run an independent campaign and I learned like a lot of people did how the government works and I think he found that if you run independent campaign that he might get more votes than Trump or Clinton but in the end if no one crossed the 270-electoral vote threshold that it would be decided by Congress and Bernie knew I would seriously believe from people close to him inside his campaign that he considered running his own separate campaign, not a part of the Green Party or anything else, just an independent campaign. And I think he could have gotten more votes than Trump or Clinton, but he knew it would end in Congress making the decision, which would ultimately would have ended with Donald Trump being selected president. And would have made Bernie perhaps the greatest villain in American history, you know he would be seen as the scapegoat of all scapegoats.
JS: But depending who you follow on Twitter, he is.
SK: Right, and so and so he, he thought about it and decided to get behind Hillary Clinton because he believed it was the only legitimate option to stop a Donald Trump presidency. .And I believe it was as well. I shared his belief that he himself, he had, Bernie himself had the best chance of beating either of the two of them and since he did not believe there was a reasonable path to the presidency for him I didn’t believe it was possible for, particularly in the short amount of time, I didn’t I believe it’s possible for Jill Stein or anyone else to to defeat Trump or Hillary. And so I very reluctantly, painfully got behind her candidacy.
And it was, I mean, it was, no I wasn’t excited about it. I still believe to this very day though that she would would have been a better person in office than Donald Trump. Every beef that you have with her, I have with her as well but the attacks on same sex marriage, the attacks on immigration and others, I don’t believe she would be one hundred percent better, like on some, people don’t want to accept this, she may be on some things twenty percent better, thirty percent better but I believe it would have been better and safer for the people that I care about than having Trump in office.
JS: She’s writing her own version of what she, what seems to be what she believes her legacy should be interpreted as. What do you think spanning her career and the analysis you’ve done of it how would you describe Hillary Clinton’s role in American politics and, and in all of its complexities?
SK: Yeah, complexity is the right word. I mean she’s a she’s a complex person a complex political figure. And it’s — I haven’t given that much thought, not even even with her book coming out, I’ve read excerpts about it where she explains what happened in the election from her perspective.
You know, like when I look at the beginnings of who Hillary Clinton was she grew up in a Republican household supporting Republican conservative presidents, but then seemed to have a metamorphosis in college where she became compassionate about issues and work for the Children’s Defense Fund.
So I think she had this like amazing potential to be a particular type a leader, but you can’t separate who Hillary Clinton became, and she wouldn’t, from her marriage to Bill Clinton. And, so she marries this also deeply complex man, they moved to the deep south she, you know she of Illinois origin creates a southern drawl and and —
JS: Well, that southern drawl would often reemerge at black churches and in front of the NAACP.
SK: In her defense, in her, in her defense Barack Obama will also do that every now and then and both of them are widely criticized for it. And so there is something, you would have to be in a black church on the mike in the places that they’ve been in. Even Al Gore did it. And I think, like I knew I knew this comedian one time, he was telling his joke about it was it was a horrible deeply insensitive joke about when he is around Spanish-speaking people the way, and he was very serious and sincere about it, the ways he would start to change his voice and hearing, like him he would mimic it on stage and he was like, “What the hell? What the hell am I doing? Why am I doing this?”
So, I think sometimes people get in these environments including Hillary Clinton but also Obama, Gore, and others, and Bill Clinton is one of few people who would go into these environments and kind of keep his same consistent voice wherever he is. But, you know, I think she is the creation of the Democratic Party in a lot of ways as well. Like she, it’s hard to this very day for me to define what are the clear principles and values that she stands behind, what does she fight for, like what are the policies that she’s for. And so she’s she’s nebulous to me in a lot of ways because she shapeshifts what she does believe in and what she doesn’t as many politicians do and that’s a huge reason why I love Bernie, I felt like, with a few exceptions, he’s pretty much been the same guy for fifty years of public service.
And, you know. And I have many disagreements with Bernie, I feel like there are many things he did wrong in his campaign, but Hillary Clinton in her new book mocks Bernie’s call for universal health care. And here we are now his, the bill that he’ll be presenting this week is being co-sponsored by multiple people in the Senate.
Listen to the interview here:
JS: And and some prominent people, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, you know people that, whose names are being mentioned in the context of the 2020 presidential race. Do you think Bernie should run?
SK: I do. I do. You know, I wrote a piece. I actually, as crazy as this will sound, I wrote a piece and I even said I wished Hillary Clinton would run. I wish that maybe the ten most-known Democratic candidates would have a true primary.
I was working for the Daily Coast and this was during the Democratic primaries and many of my friends desperately want to Elizabeth Warren to run and I was told by Marcos, who started The Daily Coast, that she was told, and he told me that he was personal friends with Elizabeth Warren, that she was told not to run, that she could not run, that this was Hillary Clinton’s time.
And so here’s the thing: she’s 68 years old. Like, I think we see her in a very different light. But it was, it was indeed her and she should have you know been in that race. So they end up being this very weird problematic primary with Hillary Clinton and two people who were not even supposed to be credible opponents, Martin O’Malley, former governor Marilyn, and and Bernie Sanders who at the time had like a five percent shot at it even being competitive.
And what should have happened in this past one was Elizabeth Warren should have ran, Bernie, Bernie should have been there, you should have had the who’s who of the Democratic Party. And that’s what they need to do this time and my thought was I would love to see Hillary Clinton run again because of the attention she would bring. I don’t think she could win this time, but she just announced it seemed like yesterday that she will not run for political office again. I wouldn’t blame her. I think when they have this primary that. Bernie should absolutely run.
I don’t, I see some ageism with people saying that he’s old, but he’s just a few years older than Donald Trump. He’s spry and energetic you know. He’s sharp. And I would support that. But I also hope Elizabeth Warren and others run. I hope there’s a a a fierce competitive primary and that the person who comes out comes out with progressive ideals and policies and connects with enough people to win.
I would tell anybody who underestimates Donald Trump that they’re wrong, even now, with his approval rating as bad as it is. I compared Donald Trump, I used to watch the Rocky movies when I was a kid and there’s this scene where Rocky Balboa fights Hulk Hogan, and but he’s not Hulk Hogan, and he’s Thunder Lips. And Thunder Lips is just beating the crap out of him, like slamming him around everywhere. And I think Donald Trump is like Thunder Lips, like you get in the ring with him and he’s so he’s he’s, he’s not what you are used to. He doesn’t play by any rules, he, none of this the standards of morality or integrity apply.
He can shapeshift policies, he can he can tell a lie on stage, he can — anything that would typically cause you to win a debate when an election, they don’t stick on him and and he he won, we can we can fuss all we want about the popular vote, he won the Electoral College significantly, he won thirty states.
JS: Well, and in this, in this 60 Minutes interview that Steve Bannon did, you know, he basically said that at every turn Bannon Himself was telling Donald Trump, “double down on it.” In fact, they refer, they referred to they the Access Hollywood recording, you know, where Trump made, “the grab ’em the pussy comment,” they refer to it as Billy Bush weekend. He was just talking about it as though it was like you know the holiday they’re celebrating. Oh, “Billy Bush weekend was a turning point.”
SK: They do operate from the perspective of all press is good press, and he, if we haven’t learned anything he is a master manipulator of the mainstream media. He received the equivalent of a billion dollars of press coverage, around the clock coverage, and in the end the things that I am appalled by, I think we learned don’t appall a lot of people.
Like even, even that when I saw that video, I was horrified and my, my initial thought was because I was thinking of how I felt when I saw this video, his interview, his time with Billy Bush, I thought, “He’s done.”
And I didn’t take into the account that I think there are millions of Americans who saw it and liked it. I think that other people saw it and were envious, jealous that he could live — like the people who voted for Donald Trump voted knowing full well that he was a gross, horrible human being. And I think there was a part of those voters that not only did they not mind it, I think they liked it in ways that they would, would never admit on the mike.
JS: Well Steve Bannon said that. That’s basically what Steve Bannon was saying in his own you know Breitbart-esque way. But it was pretty blunt in this interview.
We only have a few moments left and I want to ask you and I don’t mean this in a, I don’t want to, I don’t want to make this a rhetorical back and forth between the two of us, I really just I want you to answer it from you know a serious liberal perspective.
JS: Do you believe, based on what we know about Donald Trump, his past, his public record and his nine months of the presidency, do you believe that he is a white supremacist?
SK: I do. Yeah, I really do. I don’t think he would, of course, he would never say that. I think, when we say white supremacists, we immediately get an image in our mind of someone in the KKK or we get a like a bearded redneck from Mississippi, but I think over the long haul of his life, dating back to lawsuits from the federal government in the 70s, he has consistently been racist.
And to me the foundation for American racism is this philosophy of white supremacy that some people are better than others. And even, there are some fascinating clips of him talking about some people are born better than others. And he’s talked about this on conference stages and others, that he believes that people are born with this or that. Like even, the, the women that he chose to have kids with and other things like I believe he chose people based on a certain grade of whiteness that he, that he liked that appealed to him in a way. So I do think he, it’s a new, it’s a new different definition of white supremacy, but I do think if you look at the long haul of his life, you’ve seen hints of it.
We had a writer, a gossip columnist at The Daily News, very fascinating, who has known him since the early eighty’s. And when I first started at the Daily News Linda Stasi she said, “Listen, guys, this is an act, this white nationalism piece, this front, it’s an act.” And then a few months later she says, “Guys, I’m telling you I know this guy, this is not, it’s an act, he’s embracing it, but it’s not real.” Six months into his you know his campaign she said, “I’m telling you, you have to believe me, I know him.” She done dozens of interviews with him, she said, “It’s an act.” And then it was about a year in where she finally said, “I think I was wrong, it’s not an act. Like I thought it was an act.”
In the way she described it was that she believed that he did have moments of bigotry throughout his life, clear moments of racism of insensitivity, be it thinking about the Central Park Five or housing tenants well the others, but she said that she felt like he, her conclusion was that he adopted this idea of white nationalism for convenience sake and then started believing it.
And in part, because he was greatly influenced by Steve Bannon and —
JS: Well, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, I mean he had he had some very radical committed, you know, the term du jour is white nationalists, but yeah, you know, when you put it bluntly, I mean if you, their policies, I think it’s perfectly defensible to say that what Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller have represented in their publicly-known ideas is white supremacy.
SK: Absolutely and if you go all the way back to the Stephen Miller as a young guy, you can go back and find people who say he was an open flagrant bigot in middle school, that he was booed off of his high school stage by thousands of students and people have documented this and talked about it, because of bigotry that he was saying on the mic there. People said that he was openly racist and discriminatory and horrendous. People who knew him at Duke when he protested the presence of Maya Angelou on the campus. Like, anybody who protests Maya Angelou must, I got, I have I have a problem with you.
But, not just that, but that he was openly bigoted, said when they saw him first be —
JS: Maybe they thought she was actually Angela Davis.
SK: (laughs) Right, right, but when they, people who knew him from middle school on saw him get a position in the White House thinking, oh my god, several people said, “The worst human being that I ever met was just given a position as chief policy adviser in the White House.” He was one the first hires Donald Trump made, so was Bannon. And so, when you surround yourself with these men, keep them around, have them inform your policies.
Whether we use the term white supremacist, white nationalist, or racist or bigot, they all have distinctions that are important. But I do, I believe that he believes some people are better than others. I think it’s the foundation of his immigration policies, it’s the foundation of why he wants to build an enormous wall.
And, I believe his most devoted supporters, white supremacists think he’s a white supremacist, and they have openly said that over and over and over again. So it’s not me and you in a room guessing. Neo-nazis, Klan members and others see him and believe he is one of them. And he has not done nearly enough to dissuade them from their support. And many men, including David Duke were in Charlottesville saying, “We are here in Charlottesville doing Trump’s work.” They said that. And then he, Trump, basically gave them coded language that he supported them in so many ways. And so, I do, I think —
JS: Yeah, there were some good folks there.
SK: Yeah, and I think, I think Ta-Nehisi Coates, he has a new piece calling Donald Trump the first white president. And I first I didn’t know, I wondered, I wondered where Coates was going with it. I’ve disagreed with Coates on a lot of things, but I actually thought that piece was brilliant.
And he talked about how of course there were 43 white presidents before Barack Obama. But none of them ran on being white. Their whiteness was just inferred, it was just a part of who they were, they had power because of it, but they weren’t running on whiteness. But that Donald Trump in many ways was the first person to win the presidency off of whiteness. And I think Ta-Nehisi’s right. And I just hadn’t considered it in that way. And Donald Trump knew that and doubled down on it, saying he would, if people at his rallies injured protesters, he said he would pay for their legal defense. And so they did. And he didn’t pay for their legal defense, because he’s a liar, but he encouraged the violence. He even said he wanted to hit people. You know? And so he has appealed to the worst instincts of our country and I think we’re just now understanding the harm that he’s caused and I think it will be decades trying to work ourselves out of the damage he’s done.
JS: Alright Shaun King, we’re going to leave it there, thank you very much for joining us on Intercepted.
SK: Yeah, thank you man.
In the year since George Floyd’s murder, conservative news outlets have endlessly hyped distorted stories about violence at Black Lives Matter protests. Key videos they used come from a tight-knit group of eight young journalists.