Will Peebles, USA TODAY
Published 5:19 p.m. ET July 11, 2020 | Updated 7:31 a.m. ET July 12, 2020
Vice President Mike Pence defends Trump campaign rallies as health authorities warn people to continue to practice social distancing. “Even in a public health crisis, the American people don’t forfeit their constitutional rights,” he said. (June 26)
Facebook InfoSnip The claim: Trump campaign shirts feature imperial eagle, a Nazi symbol
President Donald Trump’s campaign website recently unveiled a T-shirt that has come under fire because of design similarities between its logo and a Nazi symbol.
The similarity was first noticed, according to Forward, by two Twitter accounts, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, described as a Jewish progressive group, and the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group formed by Republicans.
“The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection with a Nazi symbol. Again,” Bend the Arc tweeted on July 1.
Several Facebook posts have noted the similarities, as well. One user noted, “Trump is now selling straight up nazi propaganda shirts.”
The Trump campaign pushed back hard on this idea.
“This is moronic. In Democrats’ America, Mount Rushmore glorifies white supremacy and the bald eagle with an American flag is a Nazi symbol. They have lost their minds,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump 2020 communications director, said in an email to USA TODAY.
Facebook InfoSnip America’s use of the eagle
“The Great Seal of America” was developed in 1782 and also features a right-facing eagle, though the bird’s talons are spread, one holding arrows, the other holding an olive branch.
“Only one authorized Great Seal is in official use and is operated by the U.S. Department of State. The Great Seal is impressed upon official documents such as treaties and commissions. The Department of State affixes about 3,000 seals to official documents yearly,” according to the State Department’s website.
But the eagle is widely used in American political imagery. The office of the American president and many Cabinet-level offices have official seals that also incorporate an eagle as the central design.
According to the White House’s website, the presidential seal “includes the president’s coat of arms, an eagle on the great seal, a ring of stars and the words, Seal of the President of the United States.” It it thought to have originated “with the seal used by the President of the Continental Congress, a small oval with a constellation of 13 stars surrounded by clouds. It was used to seal envelopes containing correspondence sent to the Continental Congress.”
Murtaugh pointed out a similar situation in 2017 with former House Speaker Paul Ryan. A BuzzFeed story notes that January, Twitter was abuzz with the idea that the speaker’s logo resembled a similar Nazi eagle and swastika. But it also looks like the eagle-and-globe top of the silver mace of the House, “a symbol of the House’s authority,” according to the House website.
Facebook InfoSnip History of Germany’s eagle
The Nazi eagle was developed by the German Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920s, and became a symbol of the government after the party took power. It was derived from the German coat of arms.
The Reichsadler, which translates to “Imperial Eagle,” was derived from the Holy Roman Empire’s coat of arms.
“A regulation issued in 1936 defined a swastika framed by a wreath of oak leaves, topped by an open-winged and right-facing eagle, as the sovereign symbol of the Reich,” according to the German parliament’s website.
The eagle is still used as the coat of arms for Germany today, without the swastika.
Facebook InfoSnip The campaign T-shirt
The T-shirt for sale on the Trump campaign’s website is called the “America First Tee.” The design includes a left-facing eagle, holding a round emblem with the U.S. flag inside and “Trump 2020” in a banner underneath.
Forward also reported the eagle was a stock image, based on sleuthing from Twitter. The stock art linked in the Forward article has since been removed.
The President of the United States is campaigning for reelection with a Nazi symbol. Again.
On the left: an official Trump/Pence “America First” tee.
On the right; the Iron Eagle, the official symbol of the Nazi party.
⁰It’s not an accident. Bigotry is their entire brand. pic.twitter.com/mSOBxwf7Wa
— Bend the Arc: Jewish Action (@jewishaction) July 1, 2020
Both birds hold another national symbol in their talons, wings outstretched, with the head facing to the right to the viewer, or the eagle’s left.
But the designs have key differences. In Trump’s, the eagle holds the American flag up near its chest; the Nazi symbol holds the swastika lower. Trump’s design also features “Trump 2020” below it. The American eagle is also a bald eagle, whereas the Nazi eagle is depicted as an all-black bird.
Facebook InfoSnip Another Nazi symbol controversy
Trump’s campaign materials have featured symbols used by Nazis. In June, Facebook removed advertisements posted by the Trump campaign that showed an upside down triangle, a symbol used by Nazis to classify political prisoners during World War II.
The ads called on the president’s supporters to sign a petition and “stand with President Trump against ANTIFA,” referring to the name for loosely affiliated, left-leaning anti-racist groups that the President has blamed for violence in recent nationwide protests against police brutality and racial discrimination.
Murtaugh defended the ad, saying the ad included a “symbol used by Antifa” and noted Facebook included a red triangle emoji.
“The image is also not included in the Anti-Defamation League’s database of symbols of hate. But it is ironic that it took a Trump ad to force the media to implicitly concede that Antifa is a hate group” Murtaugh wrote.
Facebook InfoSnip 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.
Facebook InfoSnip Our fact-check sources:
- Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols
- Germany’s heraldic eagle history
- America’s great seal history
- Trump campaign uses symbols by Nazis
- U.S. State Department
- Forward, Did Trump campaign slap a Nazi eagle on a T-shirt?
- White House, Presidential seal
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/07/11/fact-check-trump-2020-campaign-shirt-design-similar-nazi-eagle/5414393002/
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