Donald Trump insists he didn’t mean anything anti-Semitic by his weekend tweet depicting Democratic rival Hillary Clinton alongside a six-point star and piles of $100 bills. Assuming that’s true, it’s yet another unforced error for the Trump campaign, in what’s become an almost constant stream of errors, gaffes, and other blunders.
Trump often touts his millions of social media followers. But his free-wheeling style — online and on the stump — has gotten him into trouble many times during this campaign for insensitive, inaccurate, or questionably sourced tweets.
The “sheriff’s star”
This weekend, he blamed members of the “dishonest media” for suggesting that the six-point-star was meant to represent a Star of David -– many of whom spent the weekend waiting for the campaign to respond to requests for clarification. Eventually, Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino Jr., picked up the theme, tweeting: “For the MSM to suggest that I am antisemite is AWFUL. I proudly celebrate holidays w/ my wife’s amazing Jewish family for the past 16 years.”
But it was more than a suggestion — as the website mic reported, the image originated with white supremacists online. In a statement, Scavino said the star-shaped image, which he called a “sheriff’s badge,” was sourced from an anti-Clinton Twitter account. Scavino said he chose to remove it to avoid offending anyone. The “sheriff’s star” explanation drew a fair amount of skepticism and derision.
White supremacist links and taco bowls
The “sheriff’s star,” incident drew praise from white supremacist leader David Duke. But it’s far from the first time Trump’s been accused of coziness with white supremacists — on Twitter and elsewhere.
Earlier this year, Trump was slow to distance himself from Duke’s support — though under pressure, Trump eventually disavowed Duke. Back in November, Trump tweeted out a graphic that grossly overstated the rate of black-on-white murder. The graphic claimed that most murders of white people are committed by African-Americans, when in fact most whites are killed by other whites. It came at a time when Trump being criticized for seeming to encourage violence toward protesters at his rallies, including several who were African-American.
Even when Trump tries to reach out to minority groups, he does so clumsily — like the infamous “taco bowl” tweet in celebration of Cinco de Mayo, or his awkward reference to “my African-American over there” when pointing out a black supporter at a rally.
From “Brexit” to Mussolini
There was also the time, in February, when Trump retweeted a quote that turned out to have come from the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini:
On several occasions, Trump’s posts have shown him to be misinformed or lacking knowledge of important pieces of context. Upon landing in Scotland the morning after the so-called “Brexit” vote by British citizens to leave the European Union, Trump tweeted, “Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote”:
As many online were quick to point out, Scotland actually voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, a result at odds with the vote in the UK as a whole.
Not on message — and maybe not legal
Trump’s missteps online are mirrored by other gaffes in real life. His campaign apparently slipped up last month by sending out fundraising emails to foreign officials — even though such donations are against federal law. Then, there are simple verbal misstatements — like referring to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as “7/11” instead of “9/11” during an appearance in Buffalo, N.Y., ahead of that state’s primary.
What’s politically worse for Trump is when he reveals himself to be out of step with important voting blocs within his party on major issues like abortion. Shortly before the Wisconsin primary — a state where Trump faced substantial opposition from social conservatives — Trump flubbed an answer to a question about abortion when he told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews he believed there should be some form of punishment for women who seek illegal abortions. Trump walked that back by getting back on message with a statement saying that he only would support punishment for doctors who perform abortions — but not before he astonished and offended many anti-abortion rights activist leaders.
Too late to say “sorry?”
In an earlier example, Trump told a group of evangelicals in Iowa in July of 2015 summer that he couldn’t recall having ever sought forgiveness from God — a major misstep in that crowd.
It may not be asking God for forgiveness, but Trump did acknowledge he’d made a “mistake” by tweeting out an unflattering image of then-rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, alongside a modeling photo of his own wife, Melania in late March. Trump told New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd that if he had a do-over he “wouldn’t have sent it.” Still, if the months since then are any indication, Trump isn’t showing much hesitancy to send tweets that many observers find offensive, and many of his supporters say they find refreshingly authentic.