An image of Hillary Clinton that was widely criticized as anti-Semitic after it was tweeted by Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee for president, appears to have originated two weeks ago on a Twitter account devoted to bigoted memes.
Trump tweeted the graphic on Saturday attacking Clinton in an image that included what appears to be a Jewish Star of David layered over $100 bills. The tweet calls Clinton “the most corrupt candidate ever.” Painting Jews as corrupt money-grubbers out to secretly control the government has been a well-worn anti-Semitic trope since long before World War II.
Trump’s tweet set off a firestorm on the social media platform, where the term “Star of David” was soon trending nationally, and it spiked on Google search. On Sunday, it was roundly condemned by Jewish leaders.
Trump tweeted Monday morning that the media was distorting the tweet’s intent:
But within hours of the tweet Saturday, Trump’s account tweeted the image a second time, but the six-pointed star was replaced with a circle. The original was then deleted without explanation.
Trump aide Ed Brookover told NBC News: “We took it down. We corrected it. And that correction, I think it says enough from the campaign.”
The genesis of the image was not known until the website mic.com reported Sunday that the six-pointed star meme was originally posted June 15 by a user with the handle @FishBoneHead1. The account owner’s bio reads: “Comedian: Probably offend you if you are Liberal, Politically Correct, Feminist, Democrat or Piers Morgan.”
That account has since been shut down, but it was unclear by whom. Various memes on the user’s feed include violent imagery and bigoted, offensive visions of Clinton, African-Americans, immigrants and Muslims.
NBC News found the original tweet by @fishbonehead1 by dragging the image used in Trump’s tweet into Google’s image search and restricting the search to the month of June. The only image that the search returned was emblazoned with @FishBoneHead1 on the bottom left.
This is not the first time Trump has been forced to disavow or distance himself from anti-Semitic or white supremacist connections. In January, Trump retweeted a photo from an apparent neo-Nazi supporter’s account, which included anti-Semitic imagery and quotes from Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, one of Adolf Hitler’s closest aides.
In addition, Trump retweeted from the account @WhiteGenocideTM less than a month later. That tweet has since been deleted.
In late February, Trump faced swift backlash after failing to immediately disavow former KKK Grand Master David Duke during an interview with CNN.
Leaders of his own party were publicly appalled. Trump eventually tweeted an official disavowal and blamed a faulty earpiece for his initial response. But anti-Semitic and white nationalist rhetoric has continued to dog the candidate.
Trump has been accused of knowingly whipping up racist sentiment among his supporters. He denies it but declines to explain how anti-Semitic memes keeping making their way into his own tweets.
For Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center, that’s part of the problem.
“It’s not that easy to find these materials,” Beirich told NBC News, noting that her organization, the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, spends its time looking for the sources of these kinds of hate material.
“It’s just astounding that, time after time after time, somebody there in the campaign, somehow, is running across this material,” she said.
“A one-off would be one thing,” she said. “But it’s happened repeatedly now.”
In a statement to NBC News, Todd Gutnick, communications director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the organization was “outraged to see that his campaign is sourcing material like this offensive image from white supremacist websites and online sources.”
“It is long overdue for Mr. Trump to reject the anti-Semites and racists,” Gutnick said.
The ADL, which was founded in 1913 to combat anti-Semitism and promote social justice, set up a task force in recent weeks to examine attacks on social media aimed at Jewish journalists.