For the past two weeks, the latest site of civil unrest has been Kenosha, Wisconsin. There, protesters rallied following the police shooting of Jacob Blake at the end of August, seeing it as a continuation of the inherent violence of policing in the United States. But the president of the United States doesn't share that analysis. Instead, Trump says police violence is merely comparable to golfers who "choke."
On Monday night, Trump appeared in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham. During the interview, Trump started speaking about Kenosha and how "police are under siege because of things — they can do 10,000 great acts, which is what they do, and one bad apple. Or a choker. A choker. They choke."
The details of Blake's shooting are horrific: He was shot point-blank in the back seven times while his children watched. Trump did go on to say that police could have done something differently in that situation, but added, "They choke. Just like in a golf tournament, they miss a 3-foot putt."
In a clear attempt to rescue Trump from himself, Ingraham interjected, saying, "You're not comparing it to golf. Because of course that's what the media would say." Rather than accepting the out though, Trump doubled down, telling her, "I'm saying people choke. People choke. And people are bad people. You have both. You have some bad people, and they choke."
Trump added: "You could be a police officer for 15 years and all of a sudden you're confronted. You've got a quarter of a second to make a decision. If you don't make the decision — and you're wrong — you're dead. People choke under those circumstances, and they make a bad decision."
Trump has long been obsessed with "chokers," using the term to insult several of his political opponents. He's also continually vilified protesters while defending police throughout the ongoing civil unrest this summer. In May, Minneapolis protesters set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department's 3rd precinct building, which is where the officers who killed George Floyd worked. Trump took to Twitter to threaten protesters, writing, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."
Twitter actually ended up putting a public interest notice on Trump's tweet because it "violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”
That caution regarding Trump's tweet and violence is important to keep in mind as Trump's comments to Ingraham aired just a day ahead of his scheduled visit to Kenosha. The president is expected to visit Tuesday despite Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) requesting that he reconsider. CBS News reported that Evers wrote in a letter, "I am concerned your presence will only hinder our healing. I am concerned your presence will only delay our work to overcome division and move forward together."
The police shooting of Blake isn't the only violence in Kenosha that Trump has downplayed. He has also defended Kyle Rittenhouse, the white 17-year-old charged with killing two protesters, who has since become a new folk hero for conservatives.
But then again, why would Trump try to appease protesters? He's made it quite clear that fanning the flames is a significant part of his political strategy. As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said over the weekend, “The president is only motivated by one thing: what is in it for him. He sees this violence and his ability to agitate more of it as useful to this campaign. What it does to the country, the loss of life, he doesn’t care."