ART IMITATING LIFE
‘House of Cards’ Season 4’s Donald Trump Connection: A KKK Scandal Involving Frank Underwood
The fourth season of Netflix’s House of Cards includes a storyline that’s eerily similar to the current imbroglio involving GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. [Spoilers]
House of Cards, the series that helped transform Netflix into the original-content juggernaut that it is today, has always benefited from its creator’s unique foresight. On the same day that the third season of Beau Willimon’s show premiered—one that featured a Putin-esque villain going toe-to-toe with President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey)—leading Putin critic Boris Nemtsov was shot dead on the streets of Moscow.
The fourth season dropped March 4 at midnight, less than an hour after the conclusion of a particularly rowdy GOP debate in Detroit, Michigan.
During the debate, leading contender Donald Trump was asked by Fox News moderator Chris Wallace how he feels about the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacists, and former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who’d recently endorsed Trump for president. If you think it’s bonkers that this question even needs to be asked in 2016, well, you’re not alone, but Trump forced the issue by first off-handedly disavowing the endorsement in a presser (saying “I disavow,” without naming the offending party, or why), followed by a particularly troubling exchange with CNN’s Jake Tapper wherein Trump refused to disavow Duke’s endorsement, dodging the question by claiming to not know who Duke was—despite history saying otherwise.
“I totally disavow the Ku Klux Klan, I totally disavow David Duke, I’ve been doing it now for two weeks,” Trump replied on Thursday night.
Well, during the third episode of House of Cards’ fourth season, President Underwood finds himself in a similar pickle with the KKK. It’s primary day in Underwood’s home state of South Carolina, and after giving a rousing speech about unity in a predominantly black church, a defaced billboard emerges displaying a blown-up photo of Underwood’s father, Calvin Underwood, posing with a hooded member of the KKK. It’s accompanied by the words, “Underwood 2016.”
“Who put this up and why? Who knows,” Democratic presidential rival Heather Dunbar, a likely suspect, tells the news. “And the sins of the father aren’t necessarily the sins of the son, but… it’s troubling. Very troubling. Stunts like these have the potential to open old wounds. We can’t let them happen. We need to rise above it, make clear that no matter who you support, that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.”
President Underwood admits that the photo is real, but invents a story—that may or may not be true—of how his father wasn’t in the Klan, but was forced to pose for the photo to secure a loan to save the family farm.
In addition to the David Duke hullabaloo, painting Underwood’s father as a man with connections to the Klan is even more shocking when you consider that Donald Trump’s father, Fred Trump, was arrested in 1927 following a KKK riot in Queens.
According to The Washington Post, “On Memorial Day 1927, brawls erupted in New York led by sympathizers of the Italian fascist movement and the Ku Klux Klan. In the fascist brawl, which took place in the Bronx, two Italian men were killed by anti-fascists. In Queens, 1,000 white-robed Klansmen marched through the Jamaica neighborhood, eventually spurring an all-out brawl in which seven men were arrested. One of those men was Fred Trump of 174-24 Devonshire Rd. in Jamaica.”
“It’s not clear from the context what role Fred Trump played in the brawl,” continued the piece. “The news article simply notes that seven men were arrested in the ‘near-riot of the parade,’ all of whom were represented by the same lawyers. Update: A contemporaneous article from the Daily Star notes that Trump was detained ‘on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so.’”
Despite several uncovered newspaper clippings from the time saying otherwise, Trump vehemently denied the arrest, telling The Daily Mail, “He was never arrested. He has nothing to do with this. This never happened. This is nonsense and it never happened.”
As for how that billboard got defaced, well, you’ll have to tune in to House of Cards’ fourth season to find out.