Trump’s black family on Twitter and alter egos

Jun 4, 2016 | 0 comments

Grabbing my first cup of coffee this morning, I turned on Milwaukee’s NPR station and heard, of course, about Donald Trump and his “Look at my African-American over here!” remark from yesterday.

Continuing on to Twitter, I saw that Trump was already beginning to churn out his daily tweets — including a personalized retweet which seemed clumsily designed to boost Trump’s support among African-Americans:

Right away, the photo looked suspicious. The family depicted wore no Trump T-shirts, no Trump hats. They could be anyone, just pasted into the graphic to manufacture fake support for Trump.

It seemed so obviously phony that I ran a quick Google search on the image — and immediately found it. It was a photo posted by WCPO Cincinnati, from the 27th annual Midwest Black Family Reunion held there last August.

I replied to Trump, calling out the deception, and also put out a fresh tweet of my own:

While I alerted WCPO and the photographer, others started retweeting me — and adding the handles of various media persons hoping to attract their attention, which seemed smart, so I followed suit.

Before too long, the story appeared on ThinkProgress, and BuzzFeed News contacted Eddie Perry, the father in the family photo, who called the tweet “political propaganda.”

Who is Don Vito?

Especially interesting though, was that not long after I posted my first reply, I was tweeted by someone who was on the same case — and provided some tantalizing context:

Lauren B makes an astounding connection.

The Don_Vito_08 Twitter account is the same one from which Trump retweeted the infamous “A picture is worth a thousand words” photo comparison of Heidi Cruz and Melania Trump, sparking national outrage back in late March.

In that instance, Trump admitted to Maureen Dowd, “Yeah, it was a mistake. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t have sent it.”

And yet here we are in early June.

Keep in mind, too, that this was no simple click-retweet. The original was put in quotes and deliberately re-sent — echoing the very same account that caused so much trouble a little over a month ago. Does that seem accidental?

Who is John Miller? Or John Barron?

Meanwhile, do you remember that bizarre story from mid-May, which recalled how years ago, Trump had reportedly posed as his own publicist? There was some mysterious guy on the phone named either “John Miller” or “John Barron” who sounded exactly like Donald Trump.

Even weirder, the People magazine reporter who recorded “John Miller” then accused Trump of releasing the tapes himself.

Trump even admitted under oath to using the name “John Barron,” but now denies that he is actually “John Miller.” So, while it’s gut-bustingly funny to watch professional reporters try to keep open the possibility that the voice which sounds exactly like Trump’s is not Trump’s, we also have the possibility that our next president could be a man with not only one huge ego, but also some assorted little alter egos.

You may recall that the late comedian Andy Kaufman was associated with an obnoxious Las Vegas lounge singer named Tony Clifton who said all sorts of crude things which would be hard to tolerate coming from sweet, naive Andy.

Kaufman went to his grave insisting that he was not Tony Clifton.

Are people easily fooled?

It’s one thing to see an actor playing both his character and the character’s “evil twin,” but playing multiple roles as a candidate would raise some very disturbing questions.

Think, for example, about the violent protesters who have been turning up at Trump rallies, causing chaos, and burning American flags. As many have pointed out, this sort of thing only helps Trump. So where does it originate?

When you scroll through the “Don Vito” Twitter account, you find a lot of material too extreme for even Trump to tweet. There’s a lot of stuff about violent protests, lots of panic about the end of the country, and plenty of conspiracy stuff. I will say that the account — as is often said about social media by ISIS — is very professionally produced.

And Trump repeatedly references select bits of it.

Who is behind this account? There’s probably no way to find out.

But as I’m sure John Miller could tell you, making the public believe what you want them to is easier if you come at them from multiple directions at once.

Update, July 28, 2016: In his Daily Beast story “Did a Trump Staffer Make The Meme That Nearly Broke His Campaign?,” Gideon Resnick talks to the mysterious “Don Vito” via phone.

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