The Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump PAC, claimed on Twitter that an attendee of the Republican National Convention called former President Barack Obama a “monkey” while President Donald Trump delivered remarks Monday. The claim was quickly amplified by a number of celebrities, politicians and journalists.
Trump highlighted “spying” focused on his 2016 campaign, and said these efforts involved former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden. Several convention attendees can be heard in the video shouting out in agreement, and one can be heard shouting “spygate,” the unofficial name given to the scandal. The Lincoln Project, among others, claimed they heard differently.
The Lincoln Project tweeted, “When President Trump mentioned Obama, someone from the crowd shouted, ‘Monkey!’ and the president relished in it. Disgusting.”
The Lincoln Project replied to those claiming that the RNC attendee was yelling “spygate” rather than “monkey” and wrote, “Yes, because President Trump demures at the mention of the ‘spy gate’ lie.”
The Lincoln Project has since deleted their tweet, which included the video clip, but not their reply. They have not yet posted an apology or retraction. (Related: Former US Official Threatens To Blow Up ‘Spygate’)
Actor Ken Olin quote tweeted The Lincoln Project’s original tweet, saying, “After @realDonaldTrump mentions @BarackObama’s name someone yells, ‘monkey’. A few seconds later Trump laughs and makes a joke. It’s inconceivable in 2020 that a despicable comment like this would be treated lightly. The President is sickening.” Olin has now deleted his tweet and has not apologized, retracted or clarified.
Khalilah M. Harris, a former member of the Obama Administration, tweeted, “in what presidential speech since the advent of television is someone audibly caught during a political convention calling the previous president a monkey?”
When confronted with the possibility that the individual had shouted “spygate” instead, Harris doubled down, saying, “He could have yelled spygate. It still sounds like monkey upon listening again.”
Contributing writer for the Atlantic Jemele Hill — who recently received backlash on Twitter for suggesting America was just as bad as Nazi Germany — weighed in with, “I listened 10 times and I swore that Trump supporter said monkey and I didn’t even know there was a debate.”
New York Times contributing opinion writer Wajahat Ali quote tweeted a since-deleted tweet accusing the attendee of calling President Obama a “monkey,” and ironically said, “Is calling a black man ‘monkey’ racist? Really? Let us discuss on cable news and both sides this.” His tweet has also been deleted.
However, some journalists did rally on behalf of “spygate.” Aaron Rupar of Vox tweeted, “I don’t think this is right. I went back and re-listened. The man yells ‘spygate!’ and then someone in the crowd says, ‘Sleepy Joe!’ That latter remark is the one Trump joked about.”
Rafi Schwartz tweeted, “It seems like the hecker [sic] yelled ‘spygate’ not ‘monkey’ so i’m relieved to report that it wasn’t coarse racism, just deranged conspiracy mongering.”
Jonathan Franks, vice president of Montel Williams Enterprises, deleted his original tweet accusing the attendee of calling President Obama a “monkey,” and said it seems more like the attendee yelled “spygate” instead.