Donald Trump’s use of radical, racially charged language and his policy platforms aimed at hurting minority groups sound very familiar to Daryl Johnson.
The counter-terrorism expert and former analyst with the Department of Homeland Security says many of the policies being pushed and phrases used by Trump today come nearly verbatim from white supremacist message boards over the last decade. Johnson is one of a number of experts sounding the alarm about Trump’s inflammatory language and how it is inspiring right-wing terrorism.
Vanity Fair tracked down a number of experts who say they are worried about the violence Trump’s words can incite. This comes after a week in which an ardent Trump supporter mailed bombs to the president’s frequent targets and a man who parroted right-wing anti-Semitic propaganda killed 11 people at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The White House this week aggressively pushed back against any assertion that Trump bears responsibility and Trump himself placed blame for violence squarely on the media, saying their reporting is the reason people are angry. But Johnson said Trump’s racist rhetoric is being heard loud and clear by fringe racist groups.
“It doesn’t matter what the president’s intention is. It is how it is perceived by the general populous and the far fringes,” Johnson told Vanity Fair, noting that Trump uses racially loaded terms like “invaders” and referred to himself as a “nationalist.
“When he flirts with that stuff and puts that stuff out, it is emboldening those who believe in the even more fringe conspiracy theories. Because he is seen as the highest government position in the land and he is endorsing these things,” Johnson added. “These are all extremist messages that I saw on Stormfront and other white supremacist message boards 10 or 15 years ago, and now they are being endorsed as policy by the president.”
Vanity Fair spoke to a number of other experts who said that Trump has inspired violence and noted that some who have acted out point directly to Trump. Lawyers for Patrick Eugene Stein, one of three men accused of trying to bomb Somali refugees, argued in federal court that he should receive a more lenient sentence because he was inspired to commit the act by Trump, who at the time was running for president and had spoken out harshly against Muslims.
The attacks of the last two weeks are not the only ones that have been inspired by Donald Trump. The Intercept compiled a list of all the right-wing violence inspired by Trump, including James Allen Fields, the man accused of killing Heather Heyer during Charlottesville demonstrations. Fields was a vocal supporter of Trump, friends say.