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The VICE Guide to the 2016 Election

Star Wars: A Brief History of an Incredibly Stupid Trump Tweet

Five days ago, Trump's campaign tweeted and deleted an image that was accused of being anti-Semitic. Here's why this is still a thing.

by Harry Cheadle
Jul 7 2016, 4:30pm

Approximately 13.8 billion years ago: All the matter and energy that exists in the universe emerges from a single, infinitely dense point.

About 4.6 billion years ago: The Earth congeals out of a cloud of matter floating in space.

Roughly 1.76 million years ago: Humans begin to fashion the earliest tools.

3,500 years ago, according to Jewish tradition: Moses, inspired by God, writes the Torah.

The 17th century: The Star of David—or Magen David, "Shield of David"—is used to decorate synagogues in Europe.

1897: The Zionist movement adopts the Star of David as a symbol.

1939–1942: The Nazis begin to demand that Jews wear yellow stars as identifying badges.

1948: The new nation of Israel puts the Star of David at the center of its flag.

June 22, 2016: An image of Hillary Clinton on a backdrop of a pile of money appears on a message board frequented by white supremacists. It says "History Made" and features a star that looks like the Star of David with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!" inside it.

I'm sorry, things get pretty stupid from here on out.

9:37 AM, July 2: Donald Trump's official Twitter account posts the image:

Immediately after that: A lot of people—including some conservatives—are like, "Hey this seems kinda... anti-Semitic? Even though Hillary Clinton isn't a Jew? It's definitely weird, though."

10:19 AM July 2: Trump's Twitter account, having deleted that first, controversial tweet, sends out a new, hastily photoshopped version of the image:

That seems to be an admission that there was something wrong with that original image. Which is unusual for Donald Trump but whatever.

July 3: Former Trump campaign manager Coery Lewandowski goes on CNN—the network that recently hired him basically as a full-time Trump surrogate—to stand up for his old boss, calling the controversial shape a "simple star" and blaming "political correctness run amok" for the coverage of it.

July 4: After a couple days's worth of tweets praising America, denouncing Hillary Clinton, and marking the passing of Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, Trump addresses the star tweet, defending it:

Now we are going to talk about shapes for a little bit.

Later on July 4: Trump's campaign posts a pair of statements to Facebook about the star tweet. Trump himself is quoted, saying, "These false attacks by Hillary Clinton trying to link the Star of David with a basic star, often used by sheriffs who deal with criminals and criminal behavior, showing an inscription that says 'Crooked Hillary is the most corrupt candidate ever' [note: somehow, he misquoted the image] with anti-Semitism is ridiculous."

Trump's social media director goes into more detail, saying the image "was lifted from an anti-Hillary Twitter user where countless images appear" and that "the sheriff's badge—which is available under Microsoft's 'shapes'—fit with the theme of corrupt Hillary and that is why I selected it." He adds, "I would never offend anyone and therefore chose to remove the image."

So is the Trump campaign tacitly apologizing for an image that, though perhaps innocent in intent, seems to have pissed some people off? Or is it calling the idea that it was offensive at all "ridiculous"? STAY TUNED.

July 5: The Clinton campaign's head of Jewish outreach issues a statement about the star tweet, calling it "part of a pattern" and adding, "Now, not only won't he apologize for it, he's peddling lies and blaming others."

Also on July 5: House Speaker Paul Ryan, again forced into being the de facto grown-up of the Republican Party, says in a radio interview, "Anti-Semitic images, they've got no place in a presidential campaign... Candidates should know that. The tweet's been deleted. We've got to get back to the issues that matter."

ALSO on July 5: New York Observer writer Dana Schwartz, who is Jewish, writes an open letter to the paper's publisher Jared Kushner, Trump's Orthodox Jewish son-in-law, about the star tweet and the vile anti-Semitic messages she received after publicly criticizing it.

"When you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you're giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval," she wrote to Kushner. "Because maybe Donald Trump isn't anti-Semitic. To be perfectly honest, I don't think he is. But I know many of his supporters are, and they believe for whatever reason that Trump is the candidate for them."

Still later on July 5, because I guess everyone is back from the long weekend now, huh?: Observer editor Ken Kurson tells Politico that though he thinks Schwartz is "a brilliant and thoughtful writer," he doesn't agree with her: "In my opinion, Donald Trump is not a Jew hater." Kushner releases a short statement calling Trump a "loving and tolerant person."

This, of course, doesn't really speak to Schwartz's point. She's not worried about what Trump feels in his heart, but about the fact that his amateurish campaign, which mostly consists of his Twitter account, keeps inadvertently associating itself with racist and white supremacist people and rhetoric. A good way to stop the media from asking the question, "Is Donald Trump anti-Semitic?" would be to stop saying things that anti-Semites also say.

"I'd love a real response from Mr. Kushner," Schwartz texts Politico.

July 6: Kushner writes a piece in the Observer that expands on his original statement. He talks about how his family survived the Holocaust, then reiterates that Trump is a good man, though some of his followers may be less good. "Blaming Donald Trump for the most outrageous things done by people who claim to support him is no different from blaming Bernie Sanders for the people who stomp and spit on American flags at his rallies," he writes. He does admit, however, that the tweet might not have been the greatest communication in the history of the internet: "The worst that his detractors can fairly say about him is that he has been careless in retweeting imagery that can be interpreted as offensive."

OK, we can argue about the false equivalence between flag-burning and hate speech, but it seems like this thing is finally dying down now. We're writing op-eds about op-eds about op-eds about tweets at this point. The tweet was probably ill-advised, even if the intentions behind it weren't evil—everyone can more or less agree on that, right?

6:34 PM July 6:

WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT? THE STORY WAS OVER, JUST STOP TALKING!

Also on July 6: Trump says in an interview, "I didn't want to delete it—I would have never deleted it. My people deleted it before they told me about it, they did it because of the sensibilities and sensitivities. But when I looked at it, I thought that's a star. I never thought, that's the Star of David."

You (and your campaign) have already contradicted yourself by posting, deleting, altering, then refusing to apologize for a single tweet in the span of a couple days. Then your son-in-law admitted the tweet might have been "careless." Now you say it was wrong to delete it FOUR DAYS AFTER THAT STUPID TWEET?

July 6, at a campaign rally: Trump says, among other things, that the media is "racially profiling, they're profiling, not us." According to the New York Times, "At one point, Mr. Trump lamented that his youngest child, Barron, 'draws stars all over the place.' He continued, 'I never said, "That's the Star of David, Barron, don't!"'"

July 7: Members of Jared Kushner's family—who, Politico reports, have been feuding with him since the trial that put Jared's real estate developer father in prison—denounced him for mentioning the family's Holocaust history in his defense of Trump.

Also on July 7: Eric Trump, Donald's son, shows up on Fox News and talks about the controversy. "We hire more Jewish people in our organization than anybody," he says. "I mean, half of our organization is Jewish. I hear these claims, and it is so ridiculous, and it is really the worst part of politics."

123 days from now: The 2016 presidential campaign will end.

Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.