The Trump campaign sent out an “ANTIFA ALERT” to supporters on Saturday as part of a broader effort by President Trump to instill fear of civil unrest and left-wing vigilantes, even as he says his crisis management strategy is primarily aimed at maintaining calm.
Amid a furor over audio revealing he knew of the virus’ severity as early as February and admitted to “playing it down,” Trump insisted during a news conference on Thursday that he sought to maintain “calmness” and show that the U.S. would be “fine, one way or the other.”
The comments came as something of a contradiction of Trump’s dystopian rhetoric on law and order, housing, and what the country would look like under his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
At a Michigan rally on Friday, Trump mused about a mass exodus of wealthy families from the suburbs if “residents of Antifa,” an ill-defined group of left-wing and anarchist activists, were to move there, telling supporters that if Biden wins, “the rioters, anarchists, arsonists and flag burners win.”
The Trump campaign has embraced the “Antifa” narrative as well, most recently through a text message with the subject “(1) ANTIFA ALERT,” which told supporters “they’ll attack your homes if Joe’s elected. Pres Trump needs you to become a Diamond Club Member.”
Trump campaign Facebook ads also tell supporters that “MOBS of far-left groups” are “causing absolute mayhem” and “DESTROYING our cities,” and depict Biden kneeling in front of scenes of “chaos and violence” at protests.
Confronted by Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over Trump playing the “panic card” on Biden, Trump campaign senior adviser Steve Cortes insisted there is a “key difference” between that and Trump downplaying coronavirus. “He is trying to exhort the American people to action, to say… we can restore order,” Cortes said of Trump’s rhetoric on Biden. On coronavirus, he asserted it is “not helpful” to tell Americans that the virus is “out of control,” claiming Trump “didn’t just use flowery language and then sit back.”
38%. That’s the percent of Minnesota voters who said in a CBS News/YouGov poll that Trump is trying to “calm the situation down” with regards to protests in U.S. cities, compared to 50% who said the same of Biden. 46% also said Trump is trying to “encourage fighting,” while 30% said Biden is.
Twitter users took aim at Trump for comparing his coronavirus response to Winston Churchill telling Brits to “keep calm and carry on” during World War II. “Churchill never said, ‘We won’t have to fight on the beaches, since the enemy threat will just go away,’” tweeted Steve Benen, a producer for MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
The Trump campaign has also been fundraising off the president’s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize – a distinction shared with 317 other people this year – for striking a deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. One Trump campaign Facebook ad even went as far as declaring “President Trump achieved PEACE in the MIDDLE EAST!” and misspelled the prize as the “Noble Peace Prize.”