The White House on Monday tried to distance itself from a violent parody video that shows President Trump shooting and stabbing critics and members of the media in a church.
In a tweet, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president “has not yet seen the video” and would “see it shortly.”
“But based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns this video,” Grisham tweeted.
According to the New York Times, the crude video was shown at a pro-Trump conference at the president’s Doral Miami resort over the weekend, where Donald Trump Jr. and former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders were among the guest speakers. Both Trump Jr. and Sanders said they did not see it.
In the video, Trump’s head is superimposed on the body of a man who opens fire inside the “Church of Fake News.” His targets are parishioners with logos of media organizations — including the Washington Post, Politico and Yahoo News — superimposed on their faces, as well as Black Lives Matter, the late Sen. John McCain, Rep. Maxine Waters and Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom Trump sets on fire. Other victims portrayed in the video include Rosie O’Donnell, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, George Soros, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Sen. Mitt Romney, Bill and Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama.
The clip appears to be lifted from the 2014 film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” It ends with Trump putting a stake into the head of a person with a CNN logo for a face before turning to admire his victims. The president smiles as DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win” plays in the background.
The White House Correspondents’ Association, which represents journalists who cover the administration, said it was “horrified” and called on Trump and “all Americans” to condemn the video.
“All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President’s political opponents,” Jonathan Karl, WHCA president, said in a statement. “We have previously told the president his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.”
Cindy McCain, the widow of the former Arizona senator, said the images in the video “violate every norm our society expects from its leaders.”
On ABC’s “The View,” Meghan McCain, his daughter, scolded conservatives who defended the video as “free speech.”
“If this was the opposite and it happened at an Obama event, you’d be screaming bloody murder,” she said.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who is not depicted in the video, said that while the Trump campaign may not have produced it, it is nonetheless Trump’s "re-election message."
Every mother and father in America should watch video. Play it all the way to end. Know that this is the re-election message of your President.
And then ask yourself - how you sit your kids down and tell them you want this person to lead us. https://t.co/TjgYE1uJy6
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 14, 2019
In a statement, Alex Phillips, the organizer of the American Priority conference, said the video was part of a “meme exhibit” and was “not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity.”
“American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech,” Phillips said.
While the White House suggested Trump “strongly condemns” the video, the president himself has been known to share similar memes on Twitter. In 2017, Trump tweeted an actual 2007 video from "WrestleMania 23" of himself slamming WWE president Vince McMahon to the ground and punching him, with the CNN logo superimposed over McMahon’s head.
And, facing an impeachment inquiry, Trump in recent weeks has escalated his verbal attacks aimed at the news media.
“We’re directly taking on the unholy alliance of corrupt Democrat politicians, deep state bureaucrats and the fake news media,” Trump said at a rally in Lake Charles, La., on Friday, pointing to the press. “There they are right there.”
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