Saturday, April 10, 2021
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Donald Trump and the Great White Lie

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ONE of the biggest pieces of disinformation to be pushed on to the public over the last few years has come to be known as ‘The Fine People Hoax’. It states that President Trump referred to white nationalists and neo-Nazis as ‘fine people’.

The story begins at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Activists gathered in this southern city, both in support of and to protest about the planned removal of a statue of American General Robert E Lee. During the American Civil War, Lee was a commander of the Confederate States Army, the side that was pro-slavery, therefore in this statue-toppling era his likeness should come down. (Lee never bought his own slaves. He inherited from his mother a slave family whom he emancipated in 1862. Indeed, Lee once stated that slavery is ‘a moral & political evil in any country’.) A clash broke out between the opposing groups; ultimately a car drove through the crowd and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, injuring 19 others.

In response to the day’s events, President Trump said, ‘There were very fine people on both sides.’ He went on to clarify, ‘I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay?’ For the last few years the media have shown only the first ‘very fine people’ part of Trump’s comments in an attempt to trick the public into thinking Trump was praising racists. 

It seems that President Joe Biden fell for the trick, because he cited it  as his primary motivation for entering the 2020 presidential race. Announcing his run, Biden said: ‘Charlottesville is also home to a defining moment for this nation in the last few years. It was there on August of 2017 we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open . . . And that’s when we heard the words from the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were “some very fine people on both sides”. Very fine people on both sides?’

I’m not a mind reader, so I don’t know if Biden knew the truth about Trump’s speech; perhaps Biden’s handlers shut off the video before Trump finished his statement? Either way, Biden’s stated reason for running for president of the United States was based on ignorance of the truth at best, or on a lie at worst. 

Ever since Biden’s entry into the race, the ‘Fine People Hoax’ has been perpetuated and debunked over and over again. During the 2019 vice presidential debates, Kamala Harris stated that President Trump refused to denounce white supremacists, only to have her opponent, former Vice President Mike Pence, immediately refute her accusation. Scott Adams, political commentator and creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has been consistently rebutting the hoax since 2017 on his morning livestreams and on his blog.

Most recently, the Fine People Hoax was cited in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump by lead house impeachment manager, Rep Jamie Raskin, who played a selectively edited video of Trump’s remarks on the Charlottesville incident. Trump’s defence lawyer David Schoen responded by playing the video in its entirety. Schoen finished by stating: ‘This might be the first time the news networks played those full remarks in the context. And how many times have you heard President Trump has never denounced white supremacists? Now you in America know the truth.’

It’s been one month since Trump’s second impeachment trial, and it seems as if the Fine People Hoax has been finally laid to rest. Like a garbage bag full of trash, it has been discarded and forgotten about. The hoax served its purpose to Joe Biden and the mainstream media, and now they have no more use for it.

On to the next lie.  

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Thomas Lane
Thomas Lane is a writer who lives and works in New York City.

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