The mask slipped on Saturday when a senior adviser to the Trump campaign responded to distressing viral video of a Latino man in Texas assaulting Black Lives Matter protesters — while swinging a chainsaw and screaming a racist slur — by twice retweeting praise for him.
The adviser, Mercedes Schlapp, was the White House director of strategic communications until last year, when she joined the Trump campaign to work on “Latino outreach.” At the time, Trump’s campaign manager described her fluency in Spanish, as the Miami-born daughter of a Cuban dissident, as an important asset.
As Politico first reported, Schlapp retweeted the comment “That’s how to do it,” along with the video of the man screaming a racist slur at protesters in McAllen, Texas on Friday and threatening them with a chainsaw. The tweet Schlapp promoted was posted by a far-right group called Latino Townhall.
After she was contacted by the news organization for comment, Schlapp deleted that retweet but then shared another tweet that praised the man but muted the part of his racist tirade where he used the N-word to describe protesters.
Later in the day, after Politico reported her retweets, calling them an example of how “President Donald Trump and his allies for years have amplified racist messages on Twitter while simultaneously reaching out to black and Hispanic voters,” the strategic communications expert deleted the second one and issued an apology.
However, Schlapp only apologized for having promoted “the use of that word,” which she claimed, improbably given her second retweet, not to have heard the man use, just 17 seconds into the 30 second clip she shared twice.
A second video recording of the incident, posted on Facebook, shows that the man first used the N-word to refer to George Floyd, the black security guard whose murder by a white police officer in Minneapolis sparked nationwide protests.
The second video shows that the man — who was later arrested and charged with assault — ripped a sign out of the hands of one young woman and tossed it in the back of his pick-up truck, before picking up the chainsaw and using it to chase away the group of mainly female protesters and a man who spoke up in their defense. He then also shouted a conspiracy theory spread by the White House this week — the baseless claim that violence at protests was part of a plot by antifascist activists.
Images of the protest outside McAllen’s City Hall the group assaulted by the man joined later showed that it was a peaceful assembly of a mainly young, multiracial and multiethnic crowd. The woman whose handmade sign was torn up by the man told a local news crew that it read, “Latinos for Black Lives.”
In another video, recorded by a local business group on the same street where the assault on the protesters took place, one young protester explained what they were fighting for. “We’re trying to make a change to the system as a whole,” a young man explained.
“George Floyd was just one of many, and he was just one who was caught on camera,” he continued. “Police are just allowed to just kick people’s faces, hurt protesters even when we’re being peaceful, and that’s the problem.”
Schlapp’s praise for the racist man’s assault on the protesters in Texas came on the same day that the Trump campaign released an online ad which used images of the Black Lives Matter protests as a backdrop for remarks by the president, set to mournful music, in which he claimed, “we support the right of peaceful protesters and we hear their pleas.”
“But what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities,” Trump says in the ad over images of burning flags, blurred-out graffiti near the White House, black-clad protesters and young black men hurling bricks, “has nothing to do with justice or with peace. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters and anarchists.”
“The violence and vandalism is being led by antifa,” Trump claimed, repeating a baseless conspiracy theory that the White House was caught manufacturing evidence to support just three days ago, but which appears to have swallowed whole by the racist man in Texas.
Shortly after Schlapp issued her apology on Saturday, she hosted a “Catholics for Trump” livestream which began with the suggestion that former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee who is also a Catholic, is a pedophile.
The man arrested in Texas on Friday for assaulting protesters was one of three cases this week in which racist men were caught on camera attacking peaceful protesters expressing solidarity with the victims of racist violence.
On Thursday, a 51-year-old man in Whitefish, Montana was charged with disorderly conduct for screaming invective at peaceful protesters — including: “Black lives matter? Fuck you!” — and yanking signs from their hands, even while he was being pulled away by a police officer.
On Friday, the Maryland-National Capital Park Police arrested and charged a 60-year-old man with three counts of second-degree assault for attacking three teenagers as they were posting anti-racist flyers related to the killing of George Floyd on a bike path in Bethesda — an attack that was also recorded on video by one of the three victims.