WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump ignited fresh controversy over his hard-line “law and order” push Tuesday by peddling yet another unfounded conspiracy theory, this time trying to raise suspicions about a 75-year-old protester who was hospitalized after being shoved by police and falling.
Trump tweeted without evidence that the confrontation in Buffalo, New York, may have been a “set up” as he once again sided with police officers over protesters and demonstrated anew his willingness to spread and amplify bogus charges cooked up by far-right outlets.
The move comes as Trump, who has labeled himself “your president of law and order,” has taken a tough line against the protesters who have been demonstrating across the nation following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.
Aides have been urging Trump to strike a more unifying tone, worried that his divisive response to the protests is animating parts of the Democratic base and benefiting his rival, Democrat Joe Biden, months before November's election.
Two Buffalo police officers have been charged with second-degree assault after video captured protester Martin Gugino falling to the ground after being pushed by police. He was seen bleeding from his head as officers walk away. The officers, who could face prison sentences of up to seven years if convicted, have pleaded not guilty.
The video is one of several that have emerged in recent weeks showing police using seemingly excessive force against protesters as Trump has demanded that governors and mayors across the nation take control of their streets using all means necessary. He has repeatedly urged local leaders to call up the national guard and threatened to deploy active-duty military to American cities if he deems local efforts insufficient.
“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump wrote in his tweet. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”
There is no evidence to suggest that anything of the sort took place. Trump was referencing a report on One America News Network, a far-right news channel that he often praises.