Donald Trump launches baseless assault on Bubba Wallace over noose ‘hoax’

Donald Trump has launched a baseless attack on Bubba Wallace, over an incident last month in which a noose was found in the team garage of Nascar’s only black driver.

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“Has @BubbaWallace apologised to all of those great Nascar drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?” the president tweeted on Monday morning.

Referring to Nascar’s decision to ban the display of the Confederate flag at its events, the president added: “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

In fact, Nascar’s television ratings have risen over the last two months.

Trump’s tweet echoed conspiracy theories aimed at Wallace. An FBI investigation found the driver was not a victim of a hate crime and the noose had been fashioned as a door pull last fall, long before his team had been assigned the garage at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Quite why Wallace should have to apologise is a mystery: he did not find or report the noose. On Monday, one of Wallace’s fellow drivers, Tyler Reddick, duly pushed back at the president.

“We don’t need an apology,” wrote Reddick. “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”

At Monday’s White House briefing, the press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, said she had spoken to Trump “and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of Nascar and the fans.”

McEnany refused to say if Trump believes it was a mistake for Nascar to ban Confederate flags, adding that he was also offering a critique of a “rush to judgment of the media to call something a hate crime when in fact the FBI report concluded this was not an intentional racist act”.

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Pressed on the flag issue, the press secretary said: “The president said he wasn’t making a judgment one way or the other. You’re focusing on one word at the very bottom of a tweet that’s completely taking it out of context and neglecting the complete rush to judgment.”

McEnany was also questioned about Trump’s demand for Wallace to apologise, given Nascar reported the noose.

She said: “Well, look, the FBI, as I noted, concluded that this was not a hate crime and he believes it would go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged that as well.”

Paul Reid, a CBS reporter, interjected: “He has!”

Last month, Wallace spoke of his frustration over the reaction to the FBI’s investigation.

“I was relieved just like many others to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me,” Wallace told NBC’s Today.

“But it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try and debunk you and that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now, from people saying I’m a fake … or that I reported it when it was information that was brought to me.”

The discovery of the noose came after Wallace campaigned successfully to ban the Confederate flag, seen as a racist symbol of the slave-owning era in the south, from Nascar venues. The removal was not welcomed by some fans, who paraded the flag outside the Talladega track.

At the race following the discovery of the noose, Wallace was given a stirring show of support by fellow drivers and the pit crews, who pushed his car to the front of the grid. Wallace broke down in tears after the gesture.

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This is not the first time Trump has attacked a black athlete. In 2017 he called NFL players who knelt during the national anthem, the overwhelming majority of whom were black, “sons of bitches”.

Later on Monday, the president turned his attention to the NFL’s Washington Redskins and MLB’s Cleveland Indians, which are both considering changing their nicknames, which are offensive to many Native Americans.

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“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!”

Before entering politics, Warren, now a Massachusetts senator and possible vice-presidential pick for Joe Biden, claimed to be Native American. Trump has mocked her with racist language.

The president has adopted an increasingly divisive tone as he trails Biden in the polls leading up to November’s presidential election. In a speech on Friday night, he said America was under siege from “far-left fascism”, a reference to the anti-racism protests that have swept the country since the police killing of George Floyd in May.

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

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The president has also resisted changes to military bases named after Confederate generals, retweeted then deleted a video of a man shouting “white power”, and said burning the American flag should be punishable by a year in jail.

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