Political News

Donald Trump Jr. becomes campaign flashpoint

Posted 3:34 p.m. Wednesday
Updated 3:36 p.m. Wednesday

FILE - In this July 19, 2016, file photo, Donald Trump Jr., son of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, speaks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The younger Trump posted a message on Twitter likening Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles, causing a stir and negative tweets on the internet into Tuesday, Sept. 20. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

— Donald Trump is trying to run a more disciplined campaign, going easy (for him) on slip-ups and inflammatory tweets lately. His eldest son is another story.

In recent tweets, Donald Trump Jr. likened Syrian refugees to a poisoned bowl of Skittles candy, spread an incendiary story suggesting Muslim men are preying on Western women and used a cartoon character appropriated by white supremacists. He's one of his father's most prominent advisers.

The three adult Trump children, who are running their father's company in his absence, have been valuable assets in the campaign. Daughter Ivanka introduces him at major events like his convention acceptance speech and last week's rollout of a policy on child care. Sons Donald Jr. and Eric Trump do frequent interviews and campaign stops and have become popular figures with donors, who often cite Trump's kids as evidence the nominee is a good father and a good person.

Donald Trump Jr., though, has been raising eyebrows with some of his own pronouncements recently, such as a pair of tweets within 24 hours warning about refugees allowed in the U.S. In the first, he posted a tweet featuring a bowl of the candy Skittles with a warning: "If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?" The tweet went on: "That's our Syrian refugee problem."

The photo, a popular image on the extreme right, quickly drew condemnation. Skittles parent company, Wrigley Americas, offered a terse response from Denise Young, vice president of corporate affairs: "Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don't feel it's an appropriate analogy." The photo of the bowl of Skittles was taken by a refugee from Turkey now living in Britain, who denounced Trump for using it.

Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Hillary Clinton, tweeted: "This is disgusting."

Then on Tuesday morning, Trump Jr. linked to a news article posted on the conservative news site Breitbart with the incendiary headline: "Europe's Rape Epidemic: Western Women Will Be Sacrificed at the Altar of Mass Migration." The article suggests that Muslim men are a menace to Western women and are prompting European leaders "to follow the Islamic way entirely; they've decided to place restrictions on the freedoms of their own women."

Trump Jr., 38, did not return a request for comment from The Associated Press but defended his comment to the Deseret News on Wednesday, saying "We've seen what's going on in Europe. We can't be naive to that and pretend that's not happening there."

"If there's one death associated with it because we messed up and we didn't do it right, that's a problem for me," Trump told the Utah newspaper.

A Trump spokesman suggested that "the media's run out of things to attack Mr. Trump on, and so now they scour the social media accounts of his family looking for things to blow out of proportion."

"Here's the reality: This is a family that's passionate about changing America by bringing real positive change to Washington," said Jason Miller, the Trump campaign's senior communications adviser. "They're not political insiders, and their honesty and connection with real people is what's made them so popular with voters also seeking change."

This is not the first time Trump Jr. has used imagery that some believe carries xenophobic or racist connotations.

Last week he posted a doctored image of himself, his father and several other prominent Trump allies next to Pepe the Frog, a cartoon character whose image has been used by white supremacists. He's also retweeted an academic who has argued that anti-Semitism is a "logical" response to Jewish control of the world's banks. And last week he made what resembled a Holocaust-themed joke in a radio interview, suggesting that if Republicans behaved in the same way Democrats are in 2016, the media would be "warming up the gas chamber."

Trump Jr. said later he was referring to capital punishment.

He muddied the political waters again when he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review his father shouldn't release his tax returns because it would "distract" from the celebrity businessman's "main message." The elder Trump has repeatedly said the reason he has not released his returns is because they are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

To be sure, the Republican nominee himself previously retweeted white supremacists and his new campaign CEO is the head of Breitbart News, a choice that prompted Clinton to suggest that Trump was "helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party."

Trump Jr. and wife Vanessa — who have five children — spent about 90 minutes Monday in New York City with 18 supporters of the pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America. Laurance Gay, the group's director, said Trump Jr. spoke passionately about his time in the campaign with his father and how much he enjoys mingling with working-class men and women.

And Trump Jr., who gave a well-received convention speech, is the only Trump family member to star in a campaign commercial. He appears in an ad showing his father hugging and kissing his young grandchildren.

At a rally Tuesday in North Carolina, Trump supporter Pam Guy, who runs a pharmacy with her husband in Thomasville, brushed off the fuss over the Skittles tweet.

"It just makes us more endeared to them because of what they have to go through when they're just being sincere and honest," she said.


What political news is the world searching for on Google and talking about on Twitter? Find out via AP's Election Buzz interactive. http://elections.ap.org/buzz


Associated Press writers Julie Bykowicz in New York and Jill Colvin in High Point, North Carolina, contributed to this report.


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  • Sam Nada Sep 21, 4:01 p.m.
    user avatar

    The problem, of course, with this analogy is there are non-refugee American citizens who are also terrorists, serial killers, rapists, murderers. Should we evict everyone because some of us are dangerous? People with bad intentions are everywhere. Do I need to provide a list of American Christians who have committed acts of terrorism on our own soil? Should we exile all of our high school students because a few of them will bring guns to school and start shooting people? It's an absurd point that we should prevent entry to entire groups of people because a few will cause trouble.

    First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Socialist.

    Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
    Because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

    - Martin Niemöller

  • Sam Nada Sep 21, 1:16 p.m.
    user avatar

    If there was one GOP candidate for President who was poison, would you vote for him?

  • Benjamin Kite Sep 21, 1:03 p.m.
    user avatar

    I think the Skittles analogy is both offensive and accurate. The truth hurts. Some percentage of refugees are going to be terrorists. I think the facts support that. But, when we as people do the right thing, we accept the consequences. We are free, because freedom comes with danger. We are brave, because we accept that danger, in order to remain free. We cannot teach the world about freedom without being willing to accept the danger of equality, the danger of lower our guard for the sake of humanity. We cannot teach people we care about them, without letting them into our hearts. This is about who we want to be. We don't want to be isolationists who condemn the poor huddled masses from afar. We want to be the doctors without borders.

  • Tracy T. Dalrymple Sep 21, 11:50 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Or texting....

  • Aiden Audric Sep 21, 11:45 a.m.
    user avatar

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    The question is, "what will you do before eating any of them". Trump implies there is no screening process.

    Not only does the analogy fall apart mathematically, as Ben Hill points out. Logically speaking, it's nonsense.

  • Lance Boyle Sep 21, 11:30 a.m.
    user avatar

    And in keeping with the spirit of all the analogy talk, Which of the drivers in that we routinely share the road are of the potentially dangerously drunk or fatally incompetent?

  • Jeffrey Derry Sep 21, 11:29 a.m.
    user avatar

    This is news? Yawn

  • Ben Hill Sep 21, 11:04 a.m.
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    View quoted thread

    A swimming pool is an even worse analogy. An Olympic size pool has a volume of roughly 88,000 cubic feet. I'm not even going to try and calculate the number of Skittles that would take, but it is well over a million. How many refugees do you plan on letting in to the US?

  • Clif Bardwell Sep 21, 10:16 a.m.
    user avatar

    It's been said a bowl of Skittles is a bad analogy, it's more like a swimming pool filled with Skittles...

    Ok, let's go with that. A swimming pool full of Skittles (or M&Ms or ), three of which will definitely kill you.

    How many are you willing to eat?

  • Bryan Jeffries Sep 21, 9:51 a.m.
    user avatar

    Clinton is a definitely a slimy politician. Trump however, is just a train wreck.