In an interview with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Monday, President Trump declared that “law and order has increased my poll numbers by a lot.” Though there isn’t much evidence to back that up, Trump is clearly convinced that stirring up fears about left-wing violence is the key to his reelection. He went on to offer wild descriptions of the left-wing forces supposedly terrorizing American cities and controlling his opponent, Joe Biden, which seem more grounded in conspiracy theory than reality.
Just hours before the interview was broadcast on Monday night, Trump defended a teenage vigilante shooter in Kenosha who killed two protesters, and condoned the actions of his supporters who shot demonstrators with paintball guns in Portland. On Fox News, Trump attempted to defend police officers, but bungled his own messaging, comparing the officers who shot Jacob Blake to a golfer who chokes. Per Politico:
“They can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple or a choker — you know, a choker. They choke,” Trump said, apparently making reference to the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot in the back seven times by a white officer earlier this month as he leaned into his car. Three of Blake’s children were reportedly in the back seat of his SUV when their father was shot. Blake survived the shooting but family members have said he is paralyzed from the waist down.
“Shooting the guy in the back many times. I mean, couldn’t you have done something different? Couldn’t you have wrestled him?” Trump said Monday.
“You know, I mean, in the meantime, he might’ve been going for a weapon. And, you know, there’s a whole big thing there. But they choke just like in a golf tournament. They miss a three-foot putt.”
As the president was comparing police brutality to his favorite pastime, Ingraham cut him off, providing some live PR advice: “You’re not comparing it to golf because that’s what the media will say.”
But Ingraham was not able to keep Trump from wading into murky waters while discussing the left’s supposed influence on Biden. When Trump claimed that his Democratic challenger was being controlled by “people that you’ve never heard of, people that are in the dark shadows,” Ingraham asked him to explain, telling him that his answer “sounds like conspiracy theory.”
“No,” Trump replied, “they’re people that you haven’t heard of. People that are on the streets, people that are controlling the streets.”
Trump went on to describe what sounded like a terror plot against the RNC, but he said he could not provide details, as the matter is under investigation.
“We have somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that,” Trump said. “But they came from a certain city, and this person was coming to the Republican National Convention. And there were like seven people on the plane like this person and then a lot of people were on the plane to do big damage.”
There have been no reports of an incident matching the details Trump offered during the interview, but NBC News notes that the tale does resemble a right-wing conspiracy theory that’s been circulating on social media for several months:
The claim about a plane flight matches a viral Facebook post from June 1 that falsely claimed, “At least a dozen males got off the plane in Boise from Seattle, dressed head to toe in black.” The post, by an Emmett, Idaho man, warned residents to “Be ready for attacks downtown and residential areas,” and claimed one passenger had “a tattoo that said Antifa America on his arm.”
That post was shared over 3,000 times on Facebook, but other pages from Idaho quickly added their own spin to it, like the Idaho branch of the far-right militia group 3 Percenters.
One post claimed that “Antifa has sent a plane load of their people” and that the Payette County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it. Within days, that version of the rumor picked up enough steam in Idaho Facebook groups that the Payette County Sheriff’s Office had to release a statement insisting that the viral rumor was “false information.”
Rumors of marauding bands of Antifa supporters have plagued local Facebook groups, chain emails and forwarded text messages since mid-May. One of the most viral rumors on an Antifa invasion into the suburbs was taken down after Twitter said it was created by a troll account with ties to white nationalists.
This post has been updated throughout.