'People can't get enough of this. Great people!'
Donald Trump praised angry mobs protesting against pandemic safety measures and harassing a local journalist in a Saturday tweet, calling them "Great people!"
Kevin Vesey, a local TV reporter in Long Island, New York, was covering a protest by a group of Trump supporters who oppose social distancing on Thursday. Attendees held signs containing messages including "Hang Fauci, Hang Gates, Open up all our states" and "Fake news destroys lives."
"I'll probably never forget what happened today. I was insulted. I was berated. I was practically chased by people who refused to wear masks in the middle of a pandemic," he tweeted, as shared his report on their event.
Trump responded Saturday morning by endorsing their actions. "People can't get enough of this. Great people!" he said, while sharing Vesey's video on social media.
This is far from the first time Trump has sided with extremist protesters, even those who incited or caused violence.
Earlier this month, Trump suggested that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should "give a little" to the "very good people" who opposed her stay-at-home order, a day after an armed mob of protesters stormed the state Capitol chanting "lock her up" and "heil Whitmer."
"These are very good people, but they are angry," Trump tweeted. "They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."
In April, Trump defended a group of protesters who flouted social distancing rules and safety guidelines to protest at the Michigan Capitol. "I think they're listening. I think they listen to me," he said. "They seem to be protesters that like me and respect this opinion, and my opinion is the same as just about all of the governors."
In 2017, Trump used similar language to defend a group of white nationalists after a deadly attack in Charlottesville, Virginia. He infamously claimed that "you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides."
Throughout his 2016 campaign and since, he repeatedly endorsed violence against anti-Trump protesters and the media. At one rally, he even promised to pay the legal fees for any supporter who decided to "knock the crap out of" any anti-Trump protester throwing a tomato.
In recent weeks, Trump and Republicans have endorsed the vocal minority pushing to end social distancing rules aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 — even those openly flouting the rules to do so.
Several Republican officials rushed to defend the owner of a Texas salon, for example, after she repeatedly refused to keep her shop closed as required by a stay-at-home order set by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
"Small-minded 'leaders' across the country have become drunk with power. This must end," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) demanded after Shelley Luther was sentenced to seven days in jail for refusing to comply with a court order.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) even joined in at a protest against Gov. Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order last month. "When we are emptying our jails of convicted criminals and filling them with protestors, when we are selling copious amounts of liquor from state-owned ABC stores yet banning churches from meeting, and when we are denying the press and public access to information government officials are using to make decisions, it is time to protest," he wrote.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.