WASHINGTON — On a weekend when the nation was bracing for the approaching toll of 100,000 lives lost to the coronavirus and honoring the many more people who have died in wars, President Donald Trump amplified a series of demeaning personal attacks from a supporter with a history of racist and sexist online commentary.
Trump reposted eight tweets from John K. Stahl, a self-described conservative former political candidate, including attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Stacey Abrams, the black former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives who is considered a potential Democratic vice-presidential pick.
Stahl, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California’s 52nd District in 2012, has a history of derogatory posts, especially against black women. He has referred online to Sen. Kamala Harris of California — who is of Indian and Jamaican descent and is another potential running mate for Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — as “Willie’s Ho,” an apparent reference to Willie Brown, the powerful California state Assembly speaker who was her mentor and onetime boyfriend.
Stahl has called Abrams “Shamu” and posted racist remarks about Joy Reid, the African American MSNBC host. “When you’re born butt ugly, changing your hairstyle every day is only going to make you look phonier than you nonsense, pathetic show,” he wrote of Reid, calling her a “skank.”
Among the posts Trump retweeted Saturday, one accused Pelosi of wearing dentures and drinking “booze on the job.” Another mocked Abrams’ appearance by saying that she “visited every buffet restaurant in the State” during her unsuccessful campaign for Georgia governor, and that Biden would be “a racist if he doesn’t pick her” as his running mate.
Trump also retweeted another post from Stahl that referred to Biden as “Malarkey the Racist” and called Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, “HRC the Skank.”
Stahl did not immediately respond to an online message seeking comment. He was yet another person whose posts denigrating women and people of color — particularly black women — with foul and juvenile insults seemed to resonate with Trump, even as the president and his campaign have been trying to brand Biden a racist because of a gaffe he made in an interview Friday.
“If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black,” Biden said in an interview with Charlamagne Tha God, a host on “The Breakfast Club,” a nationally syndicated morning show that is popular with black millennials. Biden later apologized for the remark. Trump’s campaign has mounted aggressive pushback efforts to portray Biden as racist.
It was a somber Memorial Day weekend, when most Americans were stuck in their homes and anxious about states beginning to reopen their economies — especially black Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. But Trump’s Twitter feed made no mention of the lives lost or the grim milestone that the country was approaching.
Instead, he spent both Saturday and Sunday golfing at his private club in Virginia, his first visit there since the pandemic led the government to close most of the country. Television cameras caught footage of Trump, dressed in a polo shirt and white cap, cruising around on a golf cart and at one point waving at the camera.
Outside the club Sunday, one protester held up a sign that read, “I care do you, 100,000 dead.”
When he returned to the White House on Saturday, Trump was active online, even revisiting debunked conspiracy theories about Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host, implying that he was under investigation for murdering a former staff member in 2001. “A blow to her head? Body found under his desk? Left Congress suddenly? Big topic of discussion in Florida,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Big topic of discussion in Florida…and, he’s a Nut Job (with bad ratings) Keep digging, use forensic geniuses!”
In reality, the aide’s death was ruled an accident, and police have never suspected foul play.
Trump has also continued to stoke fears of immigrants and highlight racist voices as part of his reelection approach, including people like Katie Hopkins, a far-right British commentator who has denounced Muslims and migrants, and whom Trump has frequently retweeted in the past.
Stahl is less well known. In a post he appears to have written to his former high school classmates online, Stahl described his as a quiet life of a die-hard conservative but gave no hint of the racist bent of his views. He said he worked for three decades in the semiconductor industry, after serving in the Navy for six years. Never married but once engaged, Stahl described himself as an avid runner, with five marathons under his belt, a four-day-a-week golfer and a failed congressional candidate who learned from that experience that it was a “big mistake challenging an entrenched incumbent.”