He preaches hate. He incites violence. He inspires attacks.
We knew this before Friday’s arrest of Cesar Sayoc, who has been charged with a number of crimes in connection with more than a dozen pipe bombs sent to the nation’s most prominent Democrats, among others. As my colleague Trevor Aaronson has written, Sayoc is “a fervent Trump supporter.” Check out his van, his posts on social media, or the testimony of his colleagues.
I have no doubt that Trump helped radicalize Sayoc. Yet Trump apologists are keen to distance their hero from this particular villain. So too, of course, is the president himself. “We have seen an effort by the media in recent hours to use the sinister actions of one individual to score political points against me,” Trump said at a campaign rally on Friday evening.
“One individual”? Who is he kidding? Sayoc may be the latest individual to have combined his love for Trump with a love for violence against Trump’s opponents, but he is far from the first to do so. In fact, there have been a number of violent threats, attacks, and killings linked to Trump supporters in recent years — few of which have dominated the headlines in the same way as Sayoc’s alleged attempt to assassinate top Democrats, including two former U.S. presidents, has.
Since the summer of 2015, a bevy of Trump supporters, fans, and sympathizers have beaten, shot, stabbed, run over, and bombed their fellow Americans. They have taken innocent lives while aping the president’s violent rhetoric, echoing his racist conspiracy theories, and, as in the case of Sayoc, targeting the exact same people and organizations that Trump loudly and repeatedly targets at his rallies and on Twitter: Muslims, refugees, immigrants, the Clintons, CNN, and left-wing protesters, among others.
We cannot allow Trump’s apologists on Fox News and in Congress to pretend that this was a one-off; that the charges against Sayoc aren’t part of a growing and disturbing trend of violent crimes against minorities and the media perpetrated by far-right, pro-Trump individuals and militias.
So, here is a (partial) list of Trump supporters who are alleged to have carried out horrific attacks in recent years — some of them seemingly inspired by the president himself.
Scott Leader and Steve Leader, August 2015
On August 19, 2015, Scott Leader, 38, and his brother, Steve Leader, 30, attacked a homeless man in Boston who they wrongly believed to be an undocumented immigrant.
“Donald Trump was right,” they told police, after beating the man with a metal pipe and then urinating on him. “All these illegals need to be deported.”
Trump’s response? He eventually called it a “terrible” incident, but only after an earlier statement to reporters in which the then-candidate referred to his supporters as “very passionate. They love this country. They want this country to be great again. But they are very passionate. I will say that.”
Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright, and Patrick Eugene Stein, October 2016
On October 14, 2016, the FBI arrested three men — Patrick Eugene Stein, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright — for plotting a series of bomb attacks against the Somali-American community of Garden City, Kansas. Calling themselves “the Crusaders,” they had planned to launch, on the day after the November 2016 presidential election, what The Guardian said “could have been the deadliest domestic terror attack since the Oklahoma bombing in 1995.”
Two of these three men were open supporters of Trump and were obsessed with anti-Muslim, anti-refugee conspiracy theories. For Stein, according to a profile in New York magazine, Trump was “the Man.” Allen wrote on Facebook: “I personally back Donald Trump.” The trio even asked a federal judge to boost the number of pro-Trump jurors at their trial (at which they were found guilty of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and of conspiring against rights).
Trump’s response? The president, who once suggested that Americans had “suffered enough” from an influx of Somali refugees, has never been asked about these three militiamen and has never condemned their plot.
Alexandre Bissonnette, January 2017
On the evening of January 29, 2017, Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire on worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City, Canada, killing six of them and wounding 19.
Bisonnette, 27, was obsessed with Trump: He searched for the president on Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube more than 800 times between January 1, 2017, and the day of the shooting. A former university classmate told the Toronto Globe and Mail that he “frequently argued” with Bissonette over the latter’s support for Trump.
In his police interrogation video, Bissonnette can be heard telling officers that he decided to attack the mosque after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a message of welcome to refugees in the wake of the U.S. president’s travel ban — which was issued two days before the mosque attack.
Trump’s response? The president may have expressed his condolences to the Canadian premier in private, but he has never publicly mentioned the shooting, the killer, or the six dead Muslims.