Trump Camp’s Pepe Meme First Appeared on White Supremacist Sites
Donald Trump’s sandy-haired head is superimposed onto Sylvester Stallone’s muscular neck. On his right is the Pepe the Frog version of the real estate mogul, an iteration of a popular Alt-Right meme that has become a persistent visual aid to the fever swamps of the 2016 internet.
It’s a play on the poster for the 2014 film The Expendables 3 and an intentional ribbing of Hillary Clinton’s remarks at a Friday fundraiser where she characterized some of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.”
Rounding out the rest of the row of “The Deplorables” is a crazed-looking Ben Carson, InfoWars radio host and Trump acolyte Alex Jones screaming his head off, and a pumpkin-colored Donald Trump Jr. smiling mischievously.
Trump Jr. proudly shared it on his Instagram late Saturday. Roger Stone, a conspiracy theory peddler and informal adviser for Trump, did the same earlier in the afternoon. And like many images that emanate from the Trump campaign and its nexus of allies, it appears to have originated on 4chan, a consortium of Trump fanboys where prospective school shooters have been urged to act out their darkest fantasies and where overtly racist memes flourish.
An anonymous 4chan user posted the image in a thread on Saturday afternoon where a number of different mock-ups were crafted. (One featured Brexit leader Nigel Farage and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.)
It is unclear how Trump Jr. got the image and the Trump Organization has not responded to a voicemail from The Daily Beast seeking additional information. Stone didn’t respond to a text message asking where he got it from either. But hours after it appeared on the site, it made its way to a personal account belonging to the Republican candidate’s son.
“A friend sent me this,” Trump Jr. wrote in an Instagram post on Saturday. “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.”
David Duke, an ex-KKK Grand Wizard and current Louisiana Senate candidate, tweeted his own version of the image on Saturday as well.
His version of the poster featured Hulk Hogan and Ann Coulter in a cowboy hat.
Duke’s campaign manager Mike Lawrence told The Daily Beast that this particular picture was made in-house and not ripped from 4chan.
“We have two graphics folks on staff,” Lawrence said via text. “Why is Trump using our stuff again lol?” he said, tying his candidate once again to Trump.
In August, Trump used a chart at one of his rallies featuring an anti-Clinton meme Duke has previously tweeted out.
InfoWars founder Alex Jones, who believes that the Sandy Hook shooting was fake and who Trump has praised as having an “amazing” reputation, approvingly commented on Trump Jr.’s post: “hahaha! Nice.”
Not only was the picture housed on 4chan—which among other things has attempted to jokingly misidentify mass shooters in the past—but the photoshop was also featured on Vanguard News Network, an anti-Semitic and white supremacist forum on the same weekend Donald Trump Jr. brought it to mainstream eyes.
VNN is operated by Alex Linder, a Holocaust denier who created the site’s catchphrase, “No Jews. Just right.”
Linder did not respond to a request for comment via email.
The Trump campaign is not new to carelessly disseminating images that generate from white supremacist sources. He has retweeted memes from Twitter accounts with handles like @WhiteGenocideTM (that tweet has still not been deleted). Trump faced widespread criticism for sharing an image of Clinton next to a Star of David on top of a pile of money that was first housed on a white supremacist forum.
As the campaign responds to accusations that some of its supporters are bigoted, sharing pictures from racist message boards will do little to help quell those rumors.