President Trump portrayed some immigrants crossing into the country illegally as “animals” while speaking Wednesday at a White House event targeting California’s sanctuary city policies.
“We have people coming into the country, who are trying to come in, and we’re stopping a lot of them, but we’re taking people out of the country, you wouldn’t believe how bad these people are,” Trump said in reference to alleged gang members. “These aren’t people. These are animals.”
That broad-brush assertion itself is jarring, but not uncommon for Trump. In fact, it’s just the latest instance in which Trump has sought to dehumanize those he considers undesirable.
After a man angry over losing his job opened fire on a former office rival on Aug. 24, 2012, on the sidewalk outside the Empire State Building, Trump wasted little time rendering his judgment.
“Terrible tragedy at the Empire State Building today. We must have fast trials and death penalty for the animals,” Trump tweeted.
The gunman, however, was killed by police at the scene.
In fact, Trump often uses the word “animal” when advocating for swift capital punishment of those accused of crimes, as was the case with an Oklahoma man suspected in the murder of a female co-worker in September 2014.
The animal who beheaded the woman in Oklahoma should be given a very fast trial and then the death penalty. The same fate – beheading?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2014
Alton Nolen, 33, was found guilty of the crime three years later and was sentenced to death.
In a May 11, 2015, tweet, Trump demanded to know why there weren’t protests “in favor of the two young police officers gunned down in Mississippi by two deranged animals” at a traffic stop. He demanded the death penalty for the four suspects, one of whom, the suspected shooter, was later found dead in his cell while awaiting trail. The other suspects are now serving prison time for lesser charges.
In the first debate of 2016 Republican presidential primaries, moderator Megyn Kelly asked Trump about using the term “disgusting animal” to describe women, which gave the candidate the opportunity for a memorable retort.
In effect, that response epitomizes Trump’s threshold for calling others an “animal”: The word applies when he says so.
After he was elected president, Trump delivered a speech to Long Island law enforcement officers in which he extolled the virtues of violent policing when dealing with MS-13 gang members.
“I was reading one of these animals was caught explaining they like to knife them and cut them and let them die slowly because that way it’s more painful. And they enjoy watching that much more,” Trump said.
At a July campaign rally in Youngstown, Ohio, Trump returned to his portrayal of undocumented immigrants as “animals.”
“And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and not painful enough,” Trump said, adding, “And these are the animals we’ve been protecting for so long. Well they’re not being protected anymore, folks.”
Following reports that the Syrian government had again used chemical weapons on its own people, Trump turned on Bashar Assad, giving him a new nickname.
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
Trump’s sweeping judgment has long been incredibly swift for a man in his position. Of course, that’s a quality his supporters often cite as distinguishing him from normal politicians.
But it’s also easy to find examples of when that impulse has been shown to be faulty.
When five black and Latino teenagers were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park in 1989, Trump took out full page ads in the city’s daily newspapers demanding that the death penalty be reinstalled to deal with the suspects.
“I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid,” Trump wrote of the accused. “How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits?”
Fourteen years after their conviction, DNA evidence exonerated the young men and they were released from prison. To this day, Trump has never apologized to the men known as the Central Park Five.
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