FILE PHOTO – U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable discussion with law enforcement in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

President Donald Trump tweeted an “unsubstantiated conspiracy theory” early Tuesday morning claiming that an elderly protestor pushed to the ground by Buffalo police last Thursday was possibly an “ANTIFA provocateur.” The accusations stemmed from a One America News Network broadcast clip, which cited the Conservative Treehouse as its source. The Conservative Treehouse, a conspiracy theory website, claimed Martin Gugino was “anti-cop” and was attempting to capture the radio communications signature of Buffalo police officers” when he was pushed. President Trump said last month that he will designate Antifa a terrorist organization.

Gugino, 75, has been a well-known community organizer in the Buffalo area for some time. Gugino’s lawyer, Kelly Zarcone, said he “has always been a peaceful protester because he cares about today’s society. No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise, so we are at a loss to understand why the president of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations about him.” Gugino was still in critical condition when President Trump authored the tweet.

Prior to a luncheon regarding police reform on Tuesday, many Republican lawmakers deflected questions about the tweet, with responses like “no comment,” “I didn’t see it,” or refusal to even stop at the podium to speak with reporters. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) was a notable exception, calling the tweet “shocking” and declining to “dignify it with any further comment.” Senator John Thune (R-SD), another Republican critical of the tweet, said, “It’s a serious accusation, which should only be made with facts and evidence. And I haven’t seen any yet.”

Hours after the broadcast, OANN published a story from Reuters with coverage on their own network, which included the line: “Trump offered no evidence other than a report by pro-Trump channel One America News Network, which also cited no evidence.”

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

One America News, the Network That Spreads Conspiracies to the West Wing – The New York Times – 6/9/2020
The conservative cable network One America News has a minuscule audience, attracts few readers on the web and has struggled to break into the television mainstream. But thanks to one powerful viewer in the White House, the network’s influence — and its conspiracy theories — are echoing in the highest reaches of American politics.

Trump Attacks 75-Year-Old Man Shoved By Buffalo PD: ‘ANTIFA Provocateur’ – The Daily Wire – 6/9/2020
In a conspiracy-pushing Twitter tirade, the president suggested that Martin Gugino – an unarmed elderly man who was left with a bleeding head injury after a confrontation with Buffalo, New York, police – was perhaps an Antifa provocateur who was using technology to scan police equipment. […] Though President Trump did not retweet the referenced report, other Twitter accounts shared it. Christopher Miller of Buzzfeed News hammered the report for allegedly being scant on evidence while accusing a reporter of having Russian ties.

Friends Of The 75-Year-Old Protester Shoved By Buffalo Police Say Trump’s Conspiratorial Tweet Is Full Of “Ridiculous” Lies – BuzzFeed News – 6/9/2020
Martin Gugino is known as a singularly gentle and nonviolent person. So when President Donald Trump used his Facebook and Twitter accounts to spread a baseless conspiracy theory accusing the 75-year-old activist of staging his own fall after being pushed by two police officers in Buffalo, New York, his friends and fellow activists have been rallying to his defense. “The ludicrousness of the lie…just a nonsensical accusation,” Victoria Ross, an activist who has known Gugino for around 10 years, said about Trump’s tweet.

Drawing On OANN, Trump Suggests Injury Of 75-Year Old Buffalo Protestor Was A ‘Set Up’ – Daily Caller – 6/9/2020
President Donald Trump suggested Tuesday morning that Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old Buffalo, New York man pushed over by police at protests last week, could be an “ANTIFA provocateur.” […] Video of the incident showed Gugino approach on-duty police officers in Niagara Square during George Floyd protests on Thursday. Two officers, Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, made contact with Gugino, who fell and hit his head on the pavement.

‘Oh lord’: Republican lawmakers claim they haven’t seen and refuse to look at Trump’s tweet spreading a conspiracy theory about an elderly man who was violently attacked by the police in Buffalo – Business Insider – 6/9/2020
Several Republican senators who were asked about the tweet said they hadn’t seen it and refused to weigh in even when told what was in the tweet. “I didn’t see it,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the interim chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN’s Manu Raju. “You’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter. I only write on it.”

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Curt Schilling on Twitter, 6/8/2020: Ok, so now you want officers to decide what the intent is of an aggressive anti-police protestor is as they approach? I think they did, they pushed him back, he tripped and fell. He was doing something he KNEW would draw reaction, that’s why he did it.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey on Twitter, 6/9/2020: Trump asks us to suspend belief, after watching the video ourselves, that Martin Gugino (a Catholic Worker) fell naturally after he was pushed. This strikes at the heart of epistomology, how we know something is true. Curious if any religious freedom groups are taking this on.

Erica Werner on Twitter, 6/9/2020: McConnell repeatedly refuses to comment on Trump tweet on Martin Gugino. “We are discussing in the Senate Republican conference what we think is the appropriate response to the events of the last two weeks.”

Jessica Fletcher on Twitter, 6/9/2020: I’m loving all the libs and never-Trumpers salivating over Trump’s Buffalo protestor theory, predicting all of “his minions” will jump on board and defend his position… …meanwhile my feed is full of conservatives telling him it’s not a good look and to knock it off

Audra J. Wolfe, PhD on Twitter, 6/9/2020: Good lord, just stumbled on some of the “Martin Gugino is fake” tweets. It’s not just the president.

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