×

White House: Trump condemns violent parody

President said he hasn’t seen it

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump “strongly condemns” a graphic and violent parody video that depicts a likeness of him shooting and stabbing opponents and members of the news media, the White House said Monday. But his press secretary said he hadn’t yet watched the two-minute clip.

The video, which drew widespread condemnation, was played during a conference held by conservative supporters of the president at his Miami golf resort last week.

It depicts a gruesome scene inside a “Church of Fake News” in which a figure whose face has been replaced with an image of Trump goes on a shooting rampage, targeting a long list of political rivals, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, former President Barack Obama and numerous news organizations.

The video, the existence of which The New York Times was first to report, was notable for its level of violence. It is part of a growing genre of pro-Trump memes that routinely earn thousands of views on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Many use superimposed faces and feature the president and his chief supporters valiantly conquering challengers or members of the media.

The one featured at the Florida conference appears to have been first posted in July 2018 on the YouTube channel “TheGeekz­Team,” where it has been viewed more than 250,000 times. It uses a violent clip from the 2015 spy thriller “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” In the original scene, actor Colin Firth is depicted shooting a crowd of possessed churchgoers.

TheGeekzTeam’s parody of Trump in “Kingsman” was taken down for a copyright claim late Monday. An email listed for TheGeekzTeam did not respond to a request for comment.

The channel frequently posts violent parody videos of Trump playing popular movie superheroes or assassins. One depicts Trump as a comic book vigilante from the Netflix show “Daredevil” who stabs, punches and kills the superimposed faces of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, as well as CNN reporter Jim Acosta, among others.

Memes, which often feature photographs of politicians with snappy text or edited video clips, have become a highly shareable form of political communication on social media sites. While many are innocent, highlighting facts or opinion, both liberal and conservative sites have used such images to push false claims and outlandish suggestions for years.

And Trump has regularly elevated that content, sharing memes that support him or attack his opponents. The president used his Twitter pulpit in July 2017 to promote a doctored clip of a World Wrestling Entertainment bit to portray Trump tackling and repeatedly pummeling a man whose face had been obscured by the CNN logo.

Trump had yet to weigh in on the video personally by early evening, despite firing off more than a dozen tweets Monday, including one that called on his millions of supporters to vote for former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, who is a contestant on the show “Dancing with the Stars.”

The current White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in her own tweet that Trump would be viewing the video later and that, “based upon everything he has heard, he strongly condemns” it.

The genre has become so popular online that the American Priority conference featured a contest for meme-makers to submit their best pro-Trump images and videos to be showcased alongside talks by some of the president’s high-profile backers, including his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and another former press secretary, Sarah Sanders.

That contest was promoted online by a Twitter user who goes by the handle @CarpeDonktum and, as one of Trump’s favored meme-makers, was among several conservative social media provocateurs invited to meet the president at the White House earlier this year.

The video of Trump slaying his political opponents was part of a loop of videos that was played in a “meme exhibit” at the Miami event, Carpe Donktum said in a statement, adding that the “Kingsman” video was “CLEARLY satirical.” Carpe Donktum has declined to identify himself to the AP in the past, due to concerns for his safety. He did not respond to requests for comment Monday.