Outrage abounds over Trump’s use of word ‘thugs’ to describe Minn looters. But, Obama used it too.

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As rioters loot and burn portions of Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, some Americans believe it’s more important to check President Donald Trump’s speech and choice of words to describe those who are committing criminal acts of destruction.

Earlier Friday, the president took to Twitter decry the violence and the lawlessness, describing the perpetrators as “thugs.”

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” Trump wrote in a tweet that the social media platform would go on to censor.

Cue the outrage and attacks. (**Language warning)

But of course, Trump isn’t the first American president to use the term. His predecessor, the always-race-conscious President Barack Obama, used “thugs” to describe rioters and looters in Baltimore, some of whom were black.

https://twitter.com/realDerekUtley/status/1266380994430582786

https://twitter.com/RedNationRising/status/1266391449693827074

In fact, the Obama administration doubled down, saying the president stood by his use of the term after the fact.

https://twitter.com/TruckinBassets/status/1266405612243599362

“Whether it’s arson or, you know, the looting of a liquor store … those were thuggish acts,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said at the time.

USA Today noted:

In discussing the riots Tuesday, Obama assailed the “criminals and thugs who tore up the place,” and described them as a distraction from the real issues of police brutality.

Some critics ascribe racial connotations to the word “thug” — Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake walked back the term earlier this week — but Obama doesn’t agree, officials said.

“At the same time, we saw a small minority of individuals engaged in other activity that was not responsible that is clearly a crime,” Earnest added. “And when you’re looting up a convenience store or you’re throwing a cinder block at a police officer, you’re engaging in thuggish behavior and that’s why the President used that word.”

Former police officer and co-founder of the “Blexit” movement Brandon Tatum also used the term to describe the looters and rioters.

“Not white ppl…BUT These ignorant, thugs who are uneducated & barbaric are destroying the image of black ppl,” he wrote. “Its sad I have to reiterate that I’m not like those dumb black folks…I’m a part of the intelligent, successful, rational black population. We are not all the same.”

It should be noted that, while Twitter’s speech police were offended by Trump’s use of the word “thug,” they did not have a similar problem with tweeted speech from Ryan Farrar, a Democratic candidate for Congress in Indiana when he expressed hope in April that coronavirus would “kill many MAGAts” — a reference to supporters of the president.

Focusing on the president’s choice of words while rioters are burning and looting a major American city seems inappropriate — whether our president is a Democrat or a Republican. Maybe a better use of time would be to focus on ensuring that there is justice done.

Jon Dougherty

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