Trump again defends ‘looting starts’ tweet by saying he first heard it from controversial Mayor Frank Rizzo

Mr Rizzo had a history of police brutality and racism in Philadelphia

Danielle Zoellner
Friday 12 June 2020 20:25
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Harris Faulkner explains to Trump what 'when the looting starts the shooting starts' means

Donald Trump again defended his “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet by saying he first heard the phrase from former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, a man with a controversial history of police brutality and racism.

The tweet, amid the George Floyd protests, became one of Mr Trump’s most controversial to-date with critics suggesting that the president was pushing for a violent reaction to protesters. Twitter flagged the tweet as glorifying violence, a move that angered Mr Trump.

In an interview with Fox News aired on Friday, the president was asked about the tweet and if he understood the quote's controversial past.

“You look at me, and I’m Harris on TV, but I’m a black woman. I’m a mom,” Fox News host Harris Faulkner told Mr Trump. “You’ve talked about it, but we haven’t seen you come out and be that consoler in this instance ... Why those words?"

“So, that’s an expression I’ve heard over the years,” Mr Trump said, and Ms Faulkner then asked if the president knew where the phrase first originated.

“I think Philadelphia,” he responded. “The mayor of Philadelphia.”

“No,” Ms Harris said, correcting the president. “It comes from 1967.”

Miami police commissioner Walter Headley made the remark when speaking to the press in 1967 adding that, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality” at a time when there was unrest within the black neighbourhoods in the city.

The Fox News host pressed the president about using the incendiary language, saying that it “frightened a lot of people".

But the president stood by his Twitter comments and said that he first heard it from Frank Rizzo, who was police commissioner in Philadelphia before serving two terms as mayor.

“He had an expression like that,” Mr Trump said, calling Mr Rizzo “tough”. “But I’ve heard it many times. ... I think it’s been used many times.”

Mr Rizzo, who died in 1991, was known for being a strong opponent of the desegregation of schools. He also urged constituents to “Vote White” when running for a third term and prevented the construction of public housing in majority-white neighbourhoods.

“Just wait after November, you’ll have a front row seat because I’m going to make Attila the Hun look like a f*****,” he said about his enemies during a 1975 re-election bid.

A 2,000-pound statue was erected in front of city hall in 1999 in honour of the mayor, but the statue was taken down last week by local officials because of Mr Rizzo’s controversial history.

“The continued display of the statue has understandably enraged and hurt many Philadelphians, including those protesting the heinous murders of George Floyd and too many others. I have seen and heard their anguish. This statue now no longer stands in front of a building that serves all Philadelphians,” Mayor Jim Kenney said last week.

Mr Trump defended his “looting” tweet by saying the phrase can have multiple meanings.

“It means two things, very different things,” he said. “One is, if there’s looting, there’s probably going to 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.”

In tweets previously addressing the quote, Mr Trump said: “Looting leads to shooting ... It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement.”

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