Trump criticizes NASCAR ban on Confederate flags, attacks Black driver

Source: Politico | July 6, 2020 | Caitlin Oprysko

The president’s tweet comes as Trump has embraced culture wars in an effort to revive his reelection prospects.

President Donald Trump on Monday continued to inflame racial tensions by panning NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its races and demanding the sport’s top Black driver apologize after a noose was found in his garage, an incident Trump claimed without evidence was a hoax.

“Has @BubbaWallace apologized 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?” Trump wrote in a tweet. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”

Last month, shortly after unveiling “Black Lives Matter” signage on his car, members of Bubba Wallace’s team reported finding a noose in the team’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, prompting a swift investigation by NASCAR as well as the FBI.

The FBI determined that Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime and that the noose had been in the garage, which was assigned to Wallace on short notice, since 2019.

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NASCAR has defended its decision to push for an investigation of the incident, with the racing association’s president asserting that “given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose” while arguing that the noose was legitimate and that the sport was acting “to protect our driver.”

Wallace, who never saw the noose personally and who was flooded with support, tweeted after the FBI completed its investigation, “I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.”

But the initial coverage was panned by some on the right, who compared the incident to actor Jussie Smollet’s fabricated assault. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany made the same link as she defended Trump’s tweet in an interview on Fox News on Monday.

“What the president is making is a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts — before the facts are out is not acceptable,” McEnany said, citing both NASCAR and the FBI’s statements on their investigation.

“The president is merely pointing out that we have to let the facts come out before we rush to judgments and there was no hate crime committed against Bubba Wallace as determined by the FBI, as noted in a NASCAR statement,” she responded when pressed on Trump’s “hoax” accusation.

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