Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted a minute-long video that some followers mistook for an official campaign announcement ahead of the president’s 2020 reelection campaign. The short clip included laudatory (and misleading) statistics about the White House’s economic and political achievements before ending with what appeared to be the president’s new logo: a patriotic lion doused in red, white, and blue.
The problem? The image is virtually identical to a logo synonymous with the white supremacist group known as VDARE, an anti-immigration group that has been suspended on Dutch Twitter for promoting hate speech.
“Thank you for the support as we MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted alongside the video, which closes with the sound of a lion roaring. According to the website, the video has been viewed more than 2.4 million times.
The eerie parallel was first pointed out by Brooke Binkowski, a journalist and former managing editor of the fact-checking website Snopes. According to her initial tweet, VDARE publicized their logo in a now-deleted tweet from 2016. “Trump takes every original colony except NJ, which hasn’t voted yet,” read the former tweet. “Confirmed for new Continental Army Flag.”
VDARE is named after Virginia Dare who is thought to be the first European white child born on the American continent. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists them as a hate group. “Founded in 1999 by anti-immigrant activist and author Peter Brimelow, the Center for American Unity has served to promote the work of white supremacists, anti-Semites and others on the radical right,” the nonprofit watchdog writes on its website.
A social media account created around the initial logo, called “Lion Guard” also created a Twitter profile used as “an informal civilian group dedicated to the safety and security of #Trump supporters by exposing Far-Left infiltrators and saboteurs,” according to its profile. The account has not been active since August 2016. Some have speculated online that the group’s catchphrase, “Better to be a lion for a day than a lamb for eternity,” derives from an axiom delivered by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini: “Better to live a day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
Watermarked over the clip that Trump posted is a Twitter handle for the user @som3thingwicked, who has received criticism for using the white supremacist logo in their promotional video for the president. The social media user responded by saying that he simply googled for a Trump logo and found the lion associated with Trump and Make American Great Again (MAGA).
VDARE has long been a supporter of the president’s agenda. At the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland, Ohio, their tweets across the ticker screen inside the hall.
The Trump administration has often played fast-and-loose with the appropriation of images and logos that don’t belong to it. In April, Hyperallergic reported that the president’s reelection team satirized the artist Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama for a T-shirt that remains online.
President Trump has long been accused of making racist remarks. Before running for president he accused Obama of not being an American citizen and during his campaign, he accused Mexican immigrants of a number of unsubstantiated illicit actions. Over the summer, he also tweeted that four Democratic congresswomen should “go back” to where they came from.