Donald Trump has launched a baseless attack on Bubba Wallace, Nascar’s only black driver, over an incident in which a noose was found in his team garage last month.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great Nascar drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?” wrote the president on Monday morning. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
Trump’s tweet echoes conspiracy theories aimed at Wallace. An FBI investigation found that Wallace was not a victim of a hate crime and the noose had been fashioned as a door pull last fall, long before his team had been assigned the garage at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Nascar’s television ratings, meanwhile, have risen over the last two months.
In an appearance on Fox News on Monday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was making “a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts before the facts are out is not acceptable.”
Quite why Wallace should apologise though is a mystery: he did not find or report the noose. On Monday, one of Wallace’s fellow drivers, Tyler Reddick, pushed back on Trump’s tweet. “We don’t need an apology,” wrote Reddick. “We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
Last month, Wallace spoke of his frustration over the reaction to the FBI’s investigation.
“I was relieved just like many others to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me,” Wallace told NBC’s Today. “But it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try and debunk you and that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now, from people saying I’m a fake … or that I reported it when it was information that was brought to me.”
The discovery of the noose came after Wallace campaigned successfully to ban the Confederate flag, seen as a racist symbol of the slave-owning era in the south, from Nascar venues. The removal was not welcomed by some fans who paraded the flag outside the Talladega track.
At the race following the discovery of the noose, Wallace was given a stirring show of support by his fellow drivers and the pit crews, who pushed his car to the front of the grid. Wallace broke down in tears after the gesture.
This is not the first time Trump has attacked a black athlete. In 2017 he called NFL players who knelt during the national anthem, the overwhelming majority of whom were black, “sons of bitches”.
The president has adopted an increasingly divisive tone in the last few weeks as he trails in the polls leading up to November’s presidential election. In a speech on Friday night, he said America was under siege from “far-left fascism”, a reference to the anti-racism protests that have swept the country since the police killing of George Floyd in May.
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
The president has also resisted changes to military bases named after Confederate generals, retweeted then deleted a video of a man shouting “white power”, and said burning the American flag should be punishable by a year in jail.