Trump defends 'looting/shooting' tweet by citing man who told people to 'vote white'

In an interview with President Trump excerpted on Thursday’s The Story With Martha MacCallum, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner attempted to explain to the president the origin of the phrase he used in a tweet on May 28 about unrest in Minneapolis, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet was quickly flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”

Speaking to MacCallum, Faulkner referred to some of Trump’s tweets as “incendiary.”

“You’ve talked about it but we haven’t seen you come out and be that consoler in this instance,” Faulkner told Trump. “And the tweets, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Why those words?” 

Trump began to say that it’s an expression he’s heard over the years, and believed it to be from a former mayor of Philadelphia. But Faulkner quickly cut him off and informed him of the racist origins of that phrase.

“No, it comes from 1967. I was about 18 months at the time,” Faulkner said. “But it was from the chief of police in Miami. He was cracking down, and he meant what he said. He said, ‘I don’t even care if it makes it look like brutality, I’m gonna crack down. When the looting starts, the shooting starts.’ Um, that frightened a lot of people when you said that.”

The phrase comes from former Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, who uttered the phrase in 1967. Headley was also known to have a distaste for civil rights activists and believed in the use of deadly force in the face of unrest. But Trump believed the phrase to come from a different historical figure who was infamous in his own right.

“Well it also comes from a very tough mayor,” Trump said, “who might have been police commissioner at the time, but I think mayor of Philadelphia, named Frank Rizzo.”

Frank Rizzo, the former police commissioner and mayor of Philadelphia, whose statue across from city hall was recently removed due to his racist policies, was not known to have said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Instead, he’s remembered for telling Philadelphia voters to “vote white” in the 1970s. Segregationist presidential candidate George Wallace, on the other hand, was known to use the phrase during his 1968 campaign.

But Trump, once again, interpreted what the phrase means to him.

“It means two things. Very different things,” Trump said. “One is, if there’s looting, there’s probably gonna be shooting, and that’s not as a threat, that’s really just a fact because that’s what happens. And the other is, if there’s looting there’s going to be shooting. They’re very different meanings.”

The Story With Martha MacCallum airs weeknights at 7 p.m. on Fox News Channel.

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