CNN’s Brian Stelter explained on Tuesday that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had been sending a “coded message” by repeating the demonstrably false claim that President Barack Obama “founded” ISIS.
At a rally in Florida on Wednesday, Trump had declared that Obama was “the founder of ISIS.” On Thursday, he doubled down during an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, and then he tripled down at an event with Florida home builders.
Stelter pointed out that the claim worked on two levels, both as a criticism of Obama’s foreign policy and as a “coded message” to those who question the president’s heritage and commitment to the United States.
“On one level, that’s a reference to foreign policy decisions by the Obama administration,” Stelter said. “On another level, that is a coded message suggesting the president of the United States is a traitor.”
“That’s what that is. It is a coded message. When we repeat that message and then we come on the air and fact check it, some people just take away the idea that it is true. They just hear it, and believe it,” he continued. “In fact, it reinforces people’s beliefs in some cases.”
Slate’s Josh Voorhees agreed that the remarks were not an accident.
“Trump has built his campaign on (white) America’s fears of the other, and what better way for him to harness those than by othering the sitting president of the United States, be it by questioning his citizenship, his faith, or his loyalty,” Voorhees wrote on Thursday. “It doesn’t matter to Trump whether his wild-eyed accusations are true; it doesn’t matter to him whether they’re offensive. All that matters to him is casting an illusion his supporters want to believe in.”
Watch the video below from CNN as clipped by Media Matters.