Donald Trump deleted a tweet in which he praised a supporter who was heard chanting “white power” in a video on Sunday, after criticism from a black Republican lawmaker and others.
Among a flurry of posts on Sunday morning, the US president retweeted a video showing elderly supporters in a pro-Trump convoy of golf buggies in Florida, a swing state that is crucial to his re-election bid in November.
One elderly white man driving a buggy emblazoned with Trump campaign posters is shown chanting “white power” in response to a protester who yells: “Where’s your white hood?” — a presumed reference to the historical uniform of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan.
“Thank you to the great people of ‘The Villages’,” Mr Trump tweeted alongside the video. The fast-growing retirement community is home to more than 100,000 people in Florida. Mr Trump won the district with 70 per cent of the vote in 2016.
Trump supporters in golf buggies in Florida shout at protesters © Twitter
Tim Scott, the Republican party’s sole black senator, called on Mr Trump to take down the “offensive” video on Sunday.
“There’s no question he should not have tweeted it and he should just take it down,” Senator Scott told CNN’s State of the Union, calling the video “indefensible”.
Alex Azar, US secretary of health and human services, told the same show that “obviously neither the president, his administration nor I would do anything to be supportive of white supremacy or anything that would support discrimination of any kind”.
The White House later claimed Mr Trump had not noticed the racist chants and the video disappeared from his Twitter timeline.
“President Trump is a big fan of The Villages,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. “He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”
Mr Trump has been losing support among older white voters, a crucial part of his electoral base in his 2016 victory. According to a New York Times-Siena College poll released last week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden now holds a six-point advantage among older voters, compared to Mr Trump’s one-point lead in the survey in October 2019 and a 13-point lead in autumn 2016.
Mr Trump, who has a voracious appetite for the social media platform, has run into repeated controversy over his tweets. Twitter has started intervening to characterise or even block some of them.
Last month, the social media network accused the US president of “glorifying violence” following his call for the military to use force against rioters in Minneapolis. The tech group took its most aggressive action yet against Mr Trump, hiding one of his tweets behind a label explaining it had “violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence”, the first time the company said it had ever used such a notice.
It also earlier issued a fact-check warning on some of his tweets, prompting Mr Trump to threaten to shut down Twitter and claiming social media platforms “totally silence conservative voices”.
Twitter said the video in which racist chants were heard did not break its rules.
Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy in San Francisco