The tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was bad enough on its own, but some people seized on an opportunity to politicize the tragedy in order connect the police officer with President Trump.
The video showing a Minneapolis police officer, identified as Derek Chauvin, kneeling on the neck of an already subdued George Floyd, an African-American, went viral on May 25, causing outrage. Within a couple of days, images started getting shared on Twitter, even by blue-check liberals, suggesting that Chauvin was pictured with President Trump during a rally in Minneapolis in October 2019.
Hey @realDonaldTrump… we know you don’t like when Colin Kaepernick takes a knee.
Wondering how you feel about Minneapolis police officer #DerekChauvin taking a knee?
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) May 27, 2020
Is that Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis cop who choked #GeorgeFloyd to death on video in the front row of a Trump MAGA rally?
Did this murder "Make America great again?" pic.twitter.com/Xnu96Q3GDH
— Don Winslow (@donwinslow) May 27, 2020
Other tweets showed a screenshot of the video of Chauvin next to a picture of a man wearing a MAGA-like hat that reads “Make Whites Great Again”
— Ice Cube (@icecube) May 27, 2020
Here is Derek Chauvin, the racist cop who kept his knee on #GeorgeFloyd’s neck, cut off his air passage and murdered him, wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” hat, a clear sign that this piece of excrement should’ve been taken off the streets a long time ago.#JusticeForFloyd pic.twitter.com/KxGxHAIzlH
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) May 27, 2020
Has-been actor Billy Baldwin even doubled down on his earlier tweet, directly accusing Trump of “aiding and abetting, incitement and emboldening these MAGA white nationalists”:
Do you think this investigation will lead to your indictment for aiding and abetting, incitement and emboldening these MAGA white nationalists to:
— Billy Baldwin (@BillyBaldwin) May 28, 2020
There are thousands of tweets from other users claiming that Chauvin was the cop in the photo with Trump or the social media photo wearing the fake MAGA hat.
It has now been proven that the officer in the photo with Trump at the rally is not Derek Chauvin.
Snopes, to their credit, posted two separate fact checks regarding the claims circulating on Twitter.
The first addresses the Trump rally photo:
Among the people who hugged Trump was a man who at one point held a sign that read “LAW & ORDER VOTE TRUMP” above his head on stage with a big smile. He was the person at the center of the May 2020 online buzz.
In a phone interview with Snopes, Sgt. John Elder, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Police Department, essentially debunked the assertion, while emphasizing that whomever was photographed at the rally was not on duty and, therefore, not covered by parameters on which the department would comment.
Elder told Snopes that he believed the officer in the photo was a retired officer. “The people that were front and center were federation folks and some were retired federation folks, and he (the officer involved in Floyd’s death) doesn’t fall anywhere in that category,” Elder said.
The leader of “Cops for Trump” also said the officer at the center of this speculation was not Chauvin.
Snopes rated the claim as false.
The second fact check addressed the social media photo alleged to be Chauvin wearing a “Make Whites Great Again” hat. Snopes confirmed the identity of the man in the photo to be
But the man in the “Make Whites Great Again” hat above is not Chauvin. This photograph actually shows Jonathan Riches, a supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump who is also a former federal inmate and an online troll who has garnered a reputation for filing lawsuits.
Riches confirmed to us that he’s the person in this photograph, but claimed that the “Make Whites Great Again” slogan on this hat was photoshopped.
“Hat is fake. Photocopied / photoshopped for sure.. I wear MAGA hats […] People don’t like me because of my Trump political activism. In return they set up fake profiles of me, memes, fake screen shots etc.,” he explained to Snopes. “In return I re-post to my friends what these people do to me. Been doing it for years to me […] It’s my face in the photo. Someone doctored or edited [the hat] and spread it as if I am the cop. Now I’m being harassed.”
Snopes could not confirm Riches’ claim the hat was photoshopped, but they do confirm he is the man in the photograph.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public into thinking that Derek Chauvin was not only a Trump supporter, but a supporter who was praised by Trump at a rally. Did this give George Floyd justice? Nope. Did this prove that there people out there who were less outraged about the incident than they were interested in using it to attack Trump? Yup.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis