Mail Bombings: Trump’s Violent Words Are Put Into Action

Oscar Bauman, Scarlet Staff

Last week, more than 13 pipe bombs were sent through the mail to prominent Democrats, including former President Obama, Hillary Clinton, the New York offices of CNN, and liberal financier George Soros. On October 26, Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Aventura, Florida was arrested and charged with the attempted bombings. As more information about Sayoc emerged, one thing became clear: Sayoc, something of a lone wolf, is a fervent supporter of President Trump, a frequent face at his rallies, and an active Twitter-user who mimicked the president’s belligerent, insulting style of speech. Sayoc drove a van plastered with pro-Trump conspiracy theories, and hand-picked his targets based on the president’s ire. It does us no good to deal in equivocating half-truths when it comes to such acts. Cesar Sayoc is a radical conservative domestic terrorist, inspired by a level of violent rhetoric of which there is no mainstream or left-wing equivalent, which may be directly sourced to the president.  

Sayoc’s targeting of George Soros is particularly indicative of his devotion to President Trump and his far-right ilk. President Trump has repeatedly personally accused Soros of financing actions against him, recently blaming Soros for both the protests against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination and the “caravan” of Central American migrants. Prominent conservatives, including the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., have accused Soros, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, of being a Nazi. This conspiracy mongering represents a mainstreaming of anti-Semitic views that have resulted in a climate of violence against the Jewish community, including last week’s horrific shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, a tragedy the likes of which cannot be done justice by this brief mention.

President Trump himself has a long history of encouraging violence. In 1989, when the future president was a New York real estate developer, he took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the Central Park Five, a group of Black and Latino teenagers accused of assault and rape and later found to be innocent, to get the death penalty. During his presidential campaign, President Trump encouraged his supporters to assault protestors at his rallies and “knock the crap out of them.” In July 2017, President Trump shared a video on his Twitter account of himself tackling Vince McMahon at a 2007 WWE event, with CNN’s logo superimposed on McMahon’s face. President Trump has repeatedly verbally targeted CNN, calling them “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.” It follows then, that CNN, a favorite target of the president, would be a target of his followers as well.  

Even as his enemies were targeted with bombs, President Trump did not tone down his rhetoric. On Twitter, he bemoaned that “this ‘Bomb’ stuff” was getting in the way of campaigning for the midterms. Conservative pundits spread conspiracy theories claiming that the bombs were sent by Democrats to make the president’s followers look violent. In fact, violence is something the president’s followers seem well-equipped to handle themselves, no staging required.  Just this week, President Trump again referred to the press as “the enemy of the people.” Violent, alienating rhetoric targeting the president’s political opponents is an integral part of the Trump brand.

Sayoc’s social media feed was unremarkable prior to 2016, but according to his acquaintances, he found purpose in the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, and began parroting the President’s hateful rhetoric. New York Times reporting reveals that in 2017, Sayoc would regularly torment his coworkers at the Fort Lauderdale pizza shop where he briefly worked with “racist, anti-gay tirades,” and told his lesbian manager that she deserved to be put on an island and “nuked.” In his rants, Sayoc is said to have repeated President Trump’s conspiratorial claims that former President Obama is not an American citizen.  

Sayoc’s posts were in no way unusual or unique. They all reflected beliefs and attitudes that, if not directly sourced from the president, have become common among influential right-wing figures. The only difference between Cesar Sayoc and someone like Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones, or even President Trump, is that Sayoc turned his violent language into violent action. The president has blood on his hands. Even once President Trump and all his enablers have been removed from power, this country will still have to contend with a new sect of domestic terrorists, who, like Sayoc, were radicalized by the president’s unhinged words.