How Trump’s attacks on prosecutors build on history of using racist language and stereotypes

NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump's aggressive reaction to his fourth criminal complaint In five months, he's adopting a strategy he's long used against legal and political opponents: relentless attacks, often steeped in language that's either overtly racist or coded in ways that appeal to racists.

The early Republican presidential candidate has used terms like “animal” and “rabid” to describe black prosecutors. He has accused black prosecutors of being “racist”. He has made unsubstantiated claims about her personal life. And on his social media platform Truth Social, Trump uses terms that rhyme with racial slurs, as some of his supporters spread racist slurs about the same goals.

The rhetoric is reminiscent of Trump's tendency to use coded racist messages to signal his supporters, an approach he has followed for several decades as he progressed from New York real estate magnate to reality TV star and eventually president . While he doesn't explicitly use racial slurs, his language is reminiscent of America's history of portraying blacks as not entirely human.

“He takes that historical racist language that was offensive and offensive and the subordination of black people, applies it to a contemporary space and really pulls that story off,” said Bev-Freda Jackson, a professor in the School of Public Affairs American University university.

While this is a tried and true strategy for Trump, his recent comments come at a particularly sensitive time. On a personal level a bond agreement signed by Trump's attorneys on Monday and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis imposes restrictions on its communications, including those made through social media. And more generally, experts fear Trump's broadsides will reinforce the online message and incite violence.

“It makes the internet a more dangerous place,” said Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism. “It only takes one angry person with a gun to do something terrible. And honestly, that's the kind of violence I'm most worried about.”

Recent incidents underscore this concern: Threats against individuals involved in Trump's cases have contributed to it arrest in Texas and a FBI assassination in Utah.

Trump spokesman Steven Cheung dismissed the idea of ​​the former president attacking people because of their race, saying in an email statement that Trump “has no racist bone in his body and anyone who says otherwise is himself.” is a racist and a fanatic.”

“He received record-breaking votes from ethnic minority voters in 2020 and there will be even more votes in 2024,” Cheung said.

Even before Trump was indicted in Georgia last week on multiple counts related to his efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, he spent days attacking the prosecutor in the case with baseless allegations and racial slurs.

He wrote online that Willis was a “rabid partisan.” He ran an ad alleging, without evidence, that she was hiding a relationship with a gang member who was prosecuting her – an ad she described as “derogatory” in an email to staffers obtained by The Associated Press and wrong”. He made allegations that Willis, the first black woman to fill her role, was “racist” and using the charge as a “cheater.”

After the indictment was filed, Trump sent an email highlighting parts of Willis' background. Headed “A family full of hatred,” Trump's email notes her father's identity as a former Black Panther and criminal defense attorney, and Willis's declared pride in her black heritage and her Swahili first name, which means “wealthy.” Willis has been open about her father's history and her legacy.

“This is Donald Trump,” said Cliff Albright, executive director of Black Voters Matter, a voting rights group. “He's always been like that in public life.”

Willis declined to comment on Trump's attacks, but urged restraint in her email to staff regarding the ad.

“We have no personal feelings toward those we investigate or pursue, and we should not express feelings,” she wrote.

Trump's response to the Georgia charges is consistent with the response he has had to previous charges and investigations.

He has called Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who is black, a “Soros-backed animal,” even though George Soros, the Hungarian-American and Jewish billionaire whom conservatives often call a bogeyman, don't know and didn't donate directly According to a Soros spokesman, Bragg said. The former president also claimed that Bragg is a “degenerate psychopath” who “hates the US.”

In a message last September on Truth Social, Trump called New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is black, a “racist AG Letitia ‘Peekaboo' James.” The nickname is similar to a term used to insult black people.

Cheung didn't say what Trump meant when he said “go peek,” but wrote in an email: “Anyone who thinks go peek is a racist phrase is obviously mentally ill and their claim strains credibility and should.” not be accepted.” seriously.”

The former President's statements and actions towards people of color have been criticized for decades.

In 1989, Trump ran full-page newspaper ads demanding that five black and Hispanic men convicted of rape be given the death penalty. The Central Park Five were exonerated in 2019, and Trump responded to the news by saying, “There are people on both sides.”

Shortly before being elected president in 2016, Trump referred to US-born District Judge Gonzalo Curiel as a “Mexican.” He said without evidence that Curiel had a conflict of interest over Trump's efforts to “build the wall” on the US southern border. During his tenure, he said four colored congressmen should return to the “broken and crime-ridden” countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all women are American citizens and three were born in the United States

And in bluntly vulgar language, when he was President, Trump questioned why the US would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shit countries” in Africa.

Other modern socialites have used coded language on the subject of race. In a 1996 crime bill speech by President Bill Clinton, then First Lady Hillary Clinton described young people in gangs as “super predators”. She said she has since regretted using the term.

But few contemporary political leaders on Trump's level employ such a consistent pattern of using racist language and phrases. And there is a risk that such comments could fuel hate crime and violence.

earlier this month, A Texas woman has been arrested and charged threatening to kill US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is leading the federal criminal case against Trump in Washington. In the call, Abigail Jo called Shry Chutkan a racist term and threatened to kill her if Trump wasn't elected next year. Also Craig Deleeuw Robertson, who was killed by the FBI in Utah earlier this month after threatening to kill President Joe Biden made threats in March to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, Bragg and James on Truth Social.

Bragg's office was seconded earlier this year a powdered substance with a threatening letter that said, “Alvin, I'm going to kill you.”

Since the indictment against Georgia, racial stereotypes about Willis have skyrocketed online. The Fulton County Sheriff's Office did not respond to an inquiry about whether there had been any threats in their office.

Last week, Trump posted online that prosecutors should have instead prosecuted those who “fixed the election.”

“They just went after those who were fighting to find the riggers!” he said.

The close resemblance of “rigger” to a racial slur caught the attention of netizens on a pro-Trump online forum, who used the term in dozens of racist messages calling for people to be killed or hanged after they saw Trump's post.

The term has appeared several times in far-right forums since the 2020 election, sometimes with the same racist context.

When asked what Trump meant by the term, Cheung defined a rigger as “a person who manipulates an event or system.”


Alexander reported from Washington.

___ The Associated Press receives support from several private foundations to improve its explanatory reporting on elections and democracy. Race and election coverage is supported by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. Learn more about AP's Democracy Initiative Here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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