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President Trump on Tuesday suggested without evidence that a 75-year-old man who was knocked to the ground by police in Buffalo, N.Y., last week during a protest over George Floyd’s death was a member of antifa and that the incident was “a set up.”
Video taken Thursday shows two officers pushing the man, Martin Gugino, who then falls and hits the back of his head on the pavement, causing him to bleed. Police initially claimed Gugino tripped. He remained hospitalized in serious but stable condition on Monday.
In his tweet, the president tagged the far-right One America News Network.
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump tweeted to his 81.9 million Twitter followers. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
Trump’s suggestion echoed conspiracy theories circulating on fringe corners of the internet and on OANN, which claimed on air that “the latest tensions in the Buffalo Police Department could be the result of a false-flag provocation by far left group antifa.”
The officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, were initially suspended without pay, prompting dozens of fellow officers to step down from Buffalo’s Emergency Response Team unit in protest.
McCabe and Torgalski were later arrested and charged with second-degree assault. They were released without bail.
“There is no room for your hate and division here @realDonaldTrump,” Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., who represents Buffalo in Congress, tweeted. “We are a community looking to heal. Your words only seek to tear us apart. Stop.”
At his daily press briefing in Albany, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he was “disgusted” by Trump’s assertion that the incident was staged.
“You think the blood coming out of his head was staged?” an exasperated Cuomo said. “You saw his head hit the pavement!”
Gugino’s lawyer called the president’s suggestions “dark, dangerous, and untrue.”
“No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise,” Kelly Zarcone said in a statement. “So we are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him.”
Trump is known to promote baseless conspiracies from his Twitter perch.
The president recently drew fierce blowback after he repeatedly suggested without evidence that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough should be investigated in the death of a young woman who died after falling in his congressional office almost two decades ago. A medical examiner ruled her death an accident, concluding she had an undiagnosed heart condition.
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