Two conservative journalists have sparked outcry on social media by making what some have interpreted as a white supremacist hand symbol at a recent visit to the White House.
Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify “white power.”
“Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House,” Fusion senior reporter Emma Roller tweeted, alongside a screenshot of the picture.
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Ms Fairbanks, however, claims the hand gesture was not a reference to the white power movement. She pointed to her partial Puerto Rican heritage as evidence that she is not a white supremacist.
“White power!!!!!!! Except I'm Puerto Rican. Can it be PR power?!” she tweeted.
Ms Fairbanks’ supporters point out that the hand symbol is also used to mean “OK.” Photos show people of all races using the symbol to signify that everything is “alright.”
just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House pic.twitter.com/OXlFSGmhN1— Emma Roller (@emmaroller)April 29, 2017
The symbol, however, has become more contentious with the rise of the alt-right – a far-right contingent in the United States that rejects both mainstream conservatism and liberal ideologies. The self-proclaimed founder of the alt-right, Richard Spencer, is a well-known white supremacist.
Alt-right journalist Lucian Wintrich, a writer for The Gateway Pundit, sparked outcry when he flashed the symbol in a similar picture at the White House in February. Notorious alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos also frequently flashes the symbol.
— Kat Capps ❄️ (@KatCapps)April 29, 2017
The resurgence of the symbol may be traced back to a popular alt-right meme, known as “smug Pepe,” which began circulating on alt-right, pro-Trump message boards in 2015. Mr Trump often uses the symbol when speaking, explaining its significance with the president’s supporters.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) characterises the symbol as a “racist hand sign.”
“Some white supremacists, particularly in California, may use a two-handed hand sign in which one hand forms the letter ‘W’ and the other hand forms the letter ‘P,’ to represent WP or ‘White Power,’” an entry in the ADL’s hate symbols database reads.
Ms Fairbanks joined notoriety when she moved from supporting Senator Bernie Sanders to supporting Mr Trump for president. She now frequently speaks out against Islamic terrorism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Her employer, Sputnik, applied for White House press credentials last month.
Mr Cernovich is the founder of the men’s rights blog Danger & Play, and author of the book “MAGA Mindset: Making YOU and America Great Again.” He received White House press credentials on 25 April.