Amid the growing calls for Donald Trump to denounce white supremacist groups that have hailed his victory, the president-elect has attempted to change the subject by seeking an apology from the cast of a Broadway musical.
Last weekend, the white nationalist National Policy Institute held a meeting in Washington to celebrate Trump’s win, CNN reported. National Policy Institute president Richard Spencer gave a speech in which he declared that “America was, until this last generation, a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation and our inheritance, and it belongs to us.” Spencer concluded his remarks by shouting: “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” Conference participants responded with a Hitler “Sieg Hiel” salute.
Let’s be clear that nothing about this is “alt” and none of it is particularly “right.” Use clear language when possible, please. pic.twitter.com/9yccIAsabB
— Chris Stirewalt (@ChrisStirewalt) November 22, 2016
Maggiano’s, the restaurant that unwittingly hosted the white supremacist event, donated the $10,000 in profits from their sales to the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League, the Washington City Paper reported. However, in its own response to the National Policy Institute event, the Trump camp did not apologize for the hate groups he has empowered, but rather gave a short, general statement denouncing racism. “President-elect Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he was elected because he will be a leader for every American. To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds,” read a statement from Bryan Lanza of the Trump-Pence transition team.
Meanwhile, Trump has taken to Twitter, not to repudiate hate, but to attack the cast of “Hamilton” for the words they had for Vice President-elect Mike Pence while he attended the Broadway musical.
Pence attended the hit musical this past Friday night, during which one of the actors, Brandon Victor Dixon, who plays the nation’s third Vice President Aaron Burr, appealed to him directly and off script: “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights,” he said. “We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
Trump responded by demanding that the cast apologize to Pence:
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
Our wonderful future V.P. Mike Pence was harassed last night at the theater by the cast of Hamilton, cameras blazing.This should not happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
The cast and producers of Hamilton, which I hear is highly overrated, should immediately apologize to Mike Pence for their terrible behavior
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2016
While Pence said he was not offended and declined to demand an apology, Raw Story reported that Dixon was not giving one anyway. The actor told CBS News that the cast had no need to apologize, and that they wanted “to stand up and spread a message of love and unity” after the divisive election campaign. “Conversation is not harassment,” Dixon said, adding that “Art is meant to bring people together, it’s meant to raise consciousness.”
As Trump demands apologies from others for exercising their right to free speech, the president-elect fails to show contrition for his own reprehensible behavior during the campaign and throughout his career, including but not limited to inciting violence and sowing the seeds of racial division. Back in 1989, following the brutal rape of a white woman while she jogged in Central Park in New York City, five Black and Latino boys were wrongfully arrested, convicted and imprisoned for the crime, and Trump took out a full-page ad in four New York City newspapers calling for a return to the death penalty: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY! BRING BACK THE POLICE!”
“I want to hate these muggers and murderers,” he wrote in the ad. “They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
Even today, despite the exoneration of the Central Park Five, with DNA evidence proving their innocence and revelations that their confessions as teens were coerced by the police, Trump still maintains the five men are guilty and called their $41 million settlement a “disgrace.”
Further, Trump tweeted inaccurate murder statistics that were posted by a neo-Nazi, according to ThinkProgress. The racist graphic, which depicted a Black gang member firing a gun, claimed that 81 percent of whites are killed by Blacks:
— The Hill (@thehill) November 23, 2015
Even before his recent foray into politics, Trump muddied the waters of civility when he helped found the Birther movement. Trump questioned President Obama’s citizenship — and therefore, his legitimacy as president — and demanded to see his birth certificate. If any apologies should be made, the president-elect should apologize for helping give birth to a racist movement that paints Black people as the “other” and questions whether we even belong in America.
During this year’s election season, Trump fomented violence at his campaign rallies, which often resembled Nazi and Ku Klux Klan rallies, inciting racial hatred not seen in a presidential election since the 1968 campaign of George Wallace. As Atlanta Black Star reported, Trump demanded the arrest of protesters and encouraged violence against them. On numerous occasions, racist supporters of the candidate obliged with incidents such as the beating of a Black Lives Matter protester in Birmingham, Alabama, and the assault of a young Black woman by white supremacists at a Trump rally in Louisville.
Meanwhile, Trump has empowered the white supremacists and neo-Nazis — and has made Breitbart chief and alt-right figure Stephen Bannon his chief strategist in the White House — and has refused to denounce them by name, much less disavow them.
Given his own troubling record, Trump is in no position to demand an apology from anyone about anything. He needs to sit down, put down the Twitter and start apologizing for the harm he has done himself.