I suppose someone at USA Today grew bored with blaming Donald Trump for the pandemic, the ensuing economic collapse, racism in America and the creation of New Coke. Or so it seems, anyway.
Recently, the President’s reelection campaign rolled out the latest in their series of new merchandise to raise campaign cash and offer supports a way of showing their appreciation to Donald Trump in public. One of the items up for sale was a t-shirt with the (by now) familiar phrase of “America First” emblazoned across it. The logo also features a bald eagle (our national bird, in case you somehow missed school the day it was covered) gripping a circle with an American flag in it. (Picture) So what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see such an image? If you answered “Nazis!” then you may be a good fit for a couple of left-wing, NeverTrump agitators who made precisely that claim. And USA Today found their incredible accusation credible enough to do a fact check of it. And what was their conclusion? I somehow doubt you’ll be surprised to learn the answer.
Clarification: The claim that Trump 2020 has put out a T-shirt with a symbol similar to a Nazi eagle and is being criticized for it is true. Worth noting, the eagle is a longtime US symbol, too.
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) July 12, 2020
That’s right, they found the claim to be “true.” They did appear to realize how dumb that tweet looked because they followed it up with a couple of caveats. But let’s see where this started and how the USA Today “fact-checker” reached his conclusion.
First of all, the complaints were raised on social media by Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, a group of progressive Democrats purportedly representing Jewish voters, and another from the Lincoln Project, a group of NeverTrumper Republicans who are essentially indistinguishable from Democrats, at least until after this November. They both accused the Trump campaign of selling “straight up nazi propaganda shirts” or variations on that theme.
Our diligent fact-checker, Will Peebles, then delves into the history of the Nazi Party in Germany, noting that they also used a symbol of an Eagle with its head turned to the viewer’s right. The eagle also grasps something in its talons. At that point, pretty much all similarities stop and Peebles even notes this fact and the many differences to be found. Some examples:
– The Nazi symbol shows the eagle holding a circle of oak leaves containing a swastika. The Trump logo has the bird holding a plain circle containing an American flag.
– The eagle in the Nazi symbol is entirely black. The eagle in the Trump logo is a standard bald eagle like the ones in most patriotic American imagery.
– The Nazi circle of leaves dangles fully below the bird’s body. Trump’s American flag logo is clutched tightly to the eagles chest.
In other words, besides the fact that both images have “an eagle” in them with its head facing to the viewer’s right, there are no other similarities.
So how did Peebles wind up rating this “fact” to be “true?” I suppose the closest he can get to an explanation is the way he phrases the conclusion. (Emphasis added)
Our ruling: True
The claims that a Trump campaign T-shirt has come under criticism for using a symbol similar to a Nazi eagle is TRUE, based on our research. But it is worth noting that the eagle is a common symbol in American politics, and is included in the presidential seal of the U.S., as well as many federal departments.
I see. So Mr. Peebles is fact-checking whether or not the T-shirt “has come under criticism for using a symbol similar to a Nazi eagle.” Despite spending most of the article exploring the history of the Nazi eagle and the American bald eagle in official imagery, all he was checking was whether or not some troll on the internet complained about it? Then why write such a long article? All he had to do was retweet the idiotic partisan kvetching from Bend the Arc and the Lincoln Project, clap his hands and yell, “VERIFIED! Yep. Someone definitely criticized the shirt.” Job well done, Mr. Peebles.
But that’s still totally dishonest. We know this because of the tweet I featured above. USA Today specifically said that the claim they were fact-checking was, “Trump campaign shirts feature imperial eagle, a Nazi symbol.” So our fact-checker not only stepped on a rake when it comes to the facts in question but is apparently lying about it as well. So much for that.
Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, responded to USA Today by calling the accusation “moronic.” I think that’s all that really needs to be said.
By the way, if you’d like to order one of these shirts, you can do so here.