On Sunday night, The New York Times reported on a meme video shown at the American Priority conference at Trump National Doral in Miami, Fla. The video depicted President Donald Trump stabbing, killing, and beating up members of the media and his political opponents in a scene taken from Kingsman: The Secret Service. On Monday morning, both American Priority — the pro-Trump group that hosted the conference where the video was shown — and the White House strongly condemned the video.
The video repurposed footage of a shoot-out in a church from Kingsman, with the heads of Trump, his political opponents, and the logos of various news outlets stamped on characters in the Kingsman scene. The meme renames the church the “Church of Fake News.” In the video, Trump pulls out a gun to shoot various media outlets and individuals.
He shoots Black Lives Matter, Vice News, and others. He prevents former FBI Director James Comey from escaping, hits the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the back of the neck, stabs Rosie O’Donnell, slams himself into Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and lights Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on fire. He throws Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) to the ground, hits former President Barack Obama in the back, and slams a stake into the head of CNN.
Other outlets and individuals targeted in the video include PBS, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post, NBC, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
The New York Times‘ Michael Schmidt blamed Trump’s rhetoric for inspiring the video. “The disclosure that the video was played shows how Mr. Trump’s anti-media language has influenced his supporters and bled into their own propaganda. Mr. Trump has made attacks on the news media a mainstay of his presidency, and he tweeted a similar — but far less violent video — in 2017. In recent weeks as he has confronted impeachment proceedings, he has ramped up his attacks on the news media, repeatedly calling it the ‘enemy of the people,'” Schmidt wrote.
CNN called on the president and his campaign to condemn the video, warning that “anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone.”
— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) October 14, 2019
The White House Correspondents’ Association also called on Trump “and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.”
WHCA Statement on video depicting President Trump murdering journalists. pic.twitter.com/52lHFaQjU2
— WHCA (@whca) October 14, 2019
Yet even NYT‘s Schmidt acknowledged that the American Priority organizers condemned the video. The event organizer, Alex Phillips, condemned it and said American Priority was looking into how the video was shown at the event.
“Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity,” Phillips told the Times. “American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech. This matter is under review.”
A spokesman for the Trump campaign also condemned the video. “That video was not produced by the campaign, and we do not condone violence,” Tim Murtaugh told the Times.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president “strongly condemns” the video, based upon reporting he had heard.
“Re: the video played over the weekend: The [President Donald Trump] has not yet seen the video, he will see it shortly, but based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video,” she tweeted.
— Stephanie Grisham (@PressSec) October 14, 2019
“It has come to our attention that an unauthorized video was shown in a side room at #AMPFest19. This video was not approved, seen, or sanctioned by the #AMPFest19 organizers,” Phillips, the American Priority organizer, said in a statement. “The organizers of #AMPFest19 were not even aware of the video until they were contacted by the NYT.”
Phillips castigated the Times for declining to report on a “panel conversation LITERALLY condemning political violence while claiming to be upset over a meme that was not sanctioned, shown on stage, or approved. #AMPFest19 always has and always will condemn political violence. And proof of this was our major panel discussion on this very topic at #AMPFest19.”
The video and the political violence it endorses are disgusting, and Trump, his campaign, and American priority were right to condemn them. Political violence has no place in American society.
It seems curious, however, that many media outlets rushed to connect Trump’s rhetoric denouncing “fake news” with this unsanctioned video. The president has occasionally suggested that he should go after the media and that media outlets should be vulnerable to libel lawsuits from public figures such as himself. This is a true attack on the free press, but the president’s repeated denunciations of the media as “fake news” is not such an attack.
The president has consistently condemned political violence, especially after Maxine Waters urged her supporters to harass Trump administration officials in public. The fact that he once tweeted a meme showing himself beating up CNN in a boxing match does not mean he would support this gruesome video, and the Times knows this. It takes a certain amount of Trump Derangement Syndrome to think the president would condone a video showing him gruesomely killing his political opponents.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.