The colorful graphic that caught President Trump’s eye declared “DEMOCRATS ARE THE TRUE ENEMIES OF AMERICA!,” earning the Twitter account that posted it a retweet on Tuesday afternoon to the president’s 62.5 million followers.
But the account, belonging to a user with the name “LYNN THOMAS,” generally traffics in darker subjects. Just a few days earlier, it posted a meme claiming the Clintons “torture and sacrifice children,” echoing the discredited Pizzagate conspiracy that led a man in 2016 to fire shots into a Washington pizzeria.
Within hours of Trump’s retweet, Twitter had suspended the account, according to the Daily Beast, the user broke Twitter’s policy by using fake accounts to “artificially amplify” its message. It’s unclear whether the account, named @LYNNTHO06607841, is even a real person, although its bio bluntly proclaims, “I’m not a bot.”
The incident is the second time this month in which Twitter has suspended an account after a Trump retweet, raising questions about the president’s regular promotion of content from mostly anonymous users who often promote divisive political messages. Trump, on Tuesday, admitted that his choice of retweets can be “a problem.”
Speaking with C-SPAN, Trump said that while he has “not much” regret about the 43,000 tweets he’s penned on his Twitter account, he acknowledged that the outside content he promotes can be problematic.
“A lot of the times, the bigger problem is the retweets,” he said to C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully. “You know, you retweet something that sounds good, but it turns out to be from a player that’s not the best player in the world. And that sort of causes a problem.”
Though the president did not specifically address Twitter’s move on Tuesday to suspend the account he’d recently retweeted, he maintained his often repeated claim that he uses the platform to “combat news that’s dishonest.”
“If I got fair coverage, I wouldn’t even have to tweet,” he said. “It’s my only form of defense.”
Asked whether his tweets challenge the promise he made on Election Night 2016 that he would unite the country as president, Trump again lashed out at the media.
“If the press covered me fairly, I wouldn’t need that,” he said to Scully in reference to his tweets. “But they don’t cover me fairly.”
The president’s comments come at the end of a month largely consumed by his Twitter attacks on minority Democratic lawmakers. On July 14, the president said that four freshman congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) — should “go back” to “the crime infested places from which they came.” (Three of the women were born in the U.S., while the Somalia-born Omar became a U.S. citizen as a teenager.) The back-and-forth culminated days later at a North Carolina rally in which Trump supporters directed their anger at Omar, chanting “Send her back!” as the president looked on silently for 13 seconds.
This week, Trump had another barrage at Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), one of his fiercest critics. The president deemed Cummings, who is African American and whose congressional district in Baltimore is nearly 53 percent black, as “racist,” while describing his district as “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
The president’s use of racist language toward Omar and her colleagues represented an early test to Twitter’s new policy that would hide tweets from influential accounts if the content was deemed inappropriate. Despite the separate attacks on the four congresswomen and Cummings, the only actions taken against Trump by Twitter since announcing the policy last month appear to be the suspensions of the two suspect accounts he’s promoted, including the one from Tuesday.
Earlier this month, Trump shared a fake quote of President Ronald Reagan that came from an impostor account with a Twitter handle similar to a popular conservative account bearing Reagan’s name. The account was suspended hours after it was shared by the president.
A request to Twitter for comment was not returned early Wednesday.
Tuesday’s retweet of a conspiracy theory-driven account — and its subsequent suspension — could also serve as the latest talking point for Trump’s argument that social media companies are biased against him and his supporters. That messaging was on full display this month when the president invited a group of Republican politicians and conservative provocateurs to the White House for a “social media summit,” which featured Trump blasting Twitter for allegedly making it difficult for people to follow him. (As The Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported, that’s not the case.)
“A lot of bad things are happening,” Trump said at the time.