A recent photo of President Donald Trump and a group of White House interns has sparked concern after one of the interns appeared to flash a “white power” hand symbol picked up by alt-right groups in the last few months.
Jack Breuer, a college grad who interned at the White House this fall, displayed the symbol as he posed with fellow interns and the president himself back in November, the Daily Mail reported. Breuer is spotted at the back of the photo making the letters “w” and “p” with his hand while the other hundred or so interns flashed Trump’s signature smile and thumbs up.
Some argue, however, the intern was simply giving the “OK” sign — NOT the sign linked to white nationalists.
“Jack’s a good kid and is probably doing it as a joke,” a fellow intern who asked to remain anonymous told the newspaper. “Some people do consider it a joke because it is the ‘OK’ sign.”
The hand symbol gained popularity among white nationalists after right-wing provocateurs like Richard Spencer were seen using them at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va. this summer. One counter-protester was killed and several others injured.
Breuer’s controversial gesture wasn’t noticed until after the White House mailed the photos to the interns’ families, according to the Daily Mail. The sign, which only makes sense if the made with the right hand, is said to depict the letter “W” for “white” and “P” for “power,” as the thumb and forefinger meet to form a circle stretching down to the wrist.
“It’s distinct symbol known in alt-right circles and what makes it worse is that he’s doing it in the East Room just below the portrait of George Washington,” the intern added.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, however, the sign is a hoax and shouldn’t be considered a symbol in support of white nationalism.
“The ‘OK’ hand gesture hoax originated in February 2017 when an anonymous 4channer announced ‘Operation O-KKK,’ telling other members, ‘we must flood Twitter [and] other social media websites … claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy,'” the organization explained. “The user even provided a helpful graphic showing how the letters WP could be traced within an ‘OK’ gesture.”
The White House hasn’t yet commented on the matter.