Lots of people tweet memes without checking who made them. The president of the United States — or someone close to him who manages his social media account — seems to be one of those people.
On Sunday morning, President Trump tweeted out a doctored old video of a professional wrestling match in which he, appearing in character as himself, pummeled another performer and sent them to the ground. Except someone had replaced the other wrestler’s head with the CNN logo — a jokey meme that reflects the president’s long-running feud with the cable news network.
But Trump didn’t create the video. That honor apparently belongs to a person who had posted a version of the video on Reddit last week, raising questions about how the meme found its way to the president’s Twitter account. It seems the anonymous user — who uses an online moniker that combines the name of a “Star Wars” character with an unpopular part of the human anatomy — has a history of posting racist, homophobic, anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic comments on the site. Many of them, like the online name, aren’t appropriate to be reprinted here.
“Wow!!” the user wrote Sunday in a post in the “the_donald” subreddit, where Trump fans often congregate. “I never expected my meme to be retweeted by the God Emporer himself!!!”
White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the Los Angeles Times that “the video did not come from Reddit,” but she did not explain further.
Without explicitly criticizing Trump, the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that monitors hate groups, reviewed the user’s posts and called the user an “extremist,” also lamenting the attention that Trump’s tweet had brought.
“In an online culture where sharing of memes and comments is the ultimate validation, this obvious purveyor of hate has been elevated by what can be considered the ultimate share,” the nonprofit said in an analysis of the user’s past posts, which includes use of the N-word. (The user did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.)
It’s not the first time the Reddit user had posted about CNN. “Something strange about CNN…can’t quite put my finger on it…” the user posted earlier in June, with an image of CNN journalists next to the Star of David.
Among politicians, Trump has been notable for retweeting messages from a wide and unfiltered range of regular fans, often with little apparent investigation into the identity of the user. Trump has tweeted several memes and messages that have been traced back to apparent racists and anti-Semites, many of whom supported his 2016 campaign for president. In a few instances, as with the CNN video, the images or messages themselves didn’t contain racist content, though others have been more questionable.
In November 2015, Trump retweeted an image with fake African American crime statistics that first appeared on a neo-Nazi Twitter account. (“Donald Tweeting Black-on-White Crime Statistics,” read a headline in the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site, adding, “WE LOVE YOU DONALD TRUMP!!!!”)
In January 2016, Trump retweeted a user named @WhiteGenocideTM. He thanked an apparent white nationalist for support in February 2016 and retweeted another apparent white nationalist in April 2016 who was praising him for his policies. In July 2016, Trump tweeted a photo of Hillary Clinton next to a Star of David that first appeared on 8chan’s /pol/ message board, a breeding ground for the alt-right movement of white nationalists and other far-right figures. (Trump said it was a sheriff’s badge.)
The defunct, left-leaning news site Gawker once baited Trump into retweeting a quote by Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
“Sometimes I feel that, you know, the retweets sometimes get him in trouble,” Trump’s wife, Melania, said during a Fox News interview in April 2016. “So I say, stay away from retweets.”
Before the election, Trump said he wrote many of his tweets himself, or at least dictated them to his staff.
“During the day, when I’m in the office, I just shout it out to one of the young ladies, who are tremendous,” Trump said at a CNN town hall in April 2016. “During the evenings, after 7 or so, I will always do it by myself.”
“Melania, do you ever want to say to him, ‘Put the mobile device down’?” CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Trump’s wife. “That, like, ‘It’s 2 a.m., and you’re still tweeting.’ ”
“Anderson, if he would only listen,” she said. “I did many times. And I just say, OK, do whatever you want. He’s an adult. He knows the consequences.”
Times staff writer Noah Bierman in Washington contributed to this report.