Donald Trump Jr. on Monday night tweeted out a photo comparing Syrian refugees to Skittles that has garnered a lot of attention from social media, political figures and even Skittles’ parent company.
Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) September 19, 2016
His tweet was met with backlash from Wrigley Americas, the parent company that makes Skittles.
“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy,” said Denise Young, vice president of corporate affairs for the company.
“We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing,” she added.
The Hillary Clinton campaign called the tweet “disgusting.”
“Thankful my grandfather was allowed into this country and not compared to a poisonous skittle,” Josh Schwerin, a spokesman for Clinton, posted.
Social media users slammed Trump, with some mocking the tweet by posting with the hashtag #SkittlesWelcome. The topic was trending in the United States.
Rebekah Read (@RebekahRead) September 20, 2016
VA for Hillary (@VA4Hillary1) September 20, 2016
Jon Favreau, a former speech writer for President Barack Obama, tweeted a photo of a Syrian child covered in dust and blood that had briefly went viral, as it depicts the horrors Syrians are experiencing in their country.
Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) September 20, 2016
The Trump campaign came to Trump Jr.’s defense following the tweet, describing the Republican presidential nominee’s son as “a tremendous asset to the campaign.”
“Speaking the truth might upset those who would rather be politically correct than safe, but the American people want a change, and only Donald Trump will do what’s needed to protect us,” said Jason Miller, the campaign’s senior communications advisor.
The meme Trump posted has white supremacist roots. Republican former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, a right-wing radio host who has been removed from the air and criticized for using racial slurs during his shows, tweeted the same message last month. He posted his tweet and Trump’s meme side by side and said, “Hey @DonaldJTrumpJr, that’s the point I made last month. Glad you agree.”
Trump’s penchant for racially charged comments and social media posts is nothing new. He came under fire earlier this month when he seemed to invoke a Holocaust reference in a radio interview regarding Clinton. He accused Clinton of frequently lying and said the media favors Democrats over Republicans.
“They’re let her slide on every discrepancy, on every lie, on every [Democratic National Convention] game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of his thing,” he said. “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”
A spokesman for the Trump campaign responded at the time to say Trump was “clearly referring to capital punishment” and not invoking anti-Semitic imagery.
Earlier this month Trump posted a photo to his Instagram account depicting him, his father and some of his father’s supporters, as well as Pepe the Frog, with text reading, “The Deplorables.” The Pepe cartoon character is often called a mascot for the alt-right.
A friend sent me this. Apparently I made the cut as one of the Deplorables All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington. He’s fighting for you and won’t ever quit. Thanks for your trust! #trump2016 #maga #makeamericagreatagain #basketofdeplorables
Origins of the Meme: Nazi Propaganda
Neither Trump nor Walsh were the first to post that message to social media. The same meme has been circulating all over the Internet for quite some time, with some images using M&Ms instead of Skittles.
In fact, comparing people to poisonous food dates back before Walsh or Trump’s tweets. “Der Giftpilz,” German for “The Toadstool” or “The Poisonous Mushroom,” is a children’s book that was published in Germany in 1938. The book served as anti-Semiticpropaganda. It was written by Ernst Hiemer and published by Julius Streicher. Streicher founded Der Strmer, an anti-Semitic newspaper for which Hiemer worked as a journalist.
Photo: Calvin College German Propaganda Archive
The story follows a mother and her son, and the mother likens Jews to poisonous mushrooms:
“Look, Franz, human beings in this world are like the mushrooms in the forest. There are good mushrooms and there are good people. There are poisonous, bad mushrooms and there are bad people. And we have to be on our guard against bad people just as we have to be on guard against poisonous mushrooms. Do you understand that”
“Yes, mother,” Franz replies. “I understand that in dealing with bad people trouble may arise, just as when one eats a poisonous mushroom. One may even die!”
“And do you know, too, who these bad men are, these poisonous mushrooms of mankind” the mother continued.
Franz slaps his chest in pride:
“Of course I know, mother! They are the Jews! Our teacher has often told us about them.”