Hope Hicks, Zuckerberg told Trump 'looting and shooting' tweet would cost him votes and put Facebook 'in a fix'
Trump had tweeted 'when the looting starts, the shooting starts' but later watered down his comments
Members of President Donald Trump's inner circle, including Hope Hicks, and outside advisers like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have urged the Republican leader to tone down his rhetoric as the country is facing riots after the death of George Floyd.
Trump, over the past few days, was reportedly warned that his Twitter comments, including controversial statements like "when the looting starts, the shooting starts," could draw away much-needed voters for his 2020 re-election plan, according to Axios. The president's advisers reportedly fear that he is in danger of alienating key voting blocs like suburban women and independents who were key to his election victory in 2016.
Hicks, counselor the president and one of his most trusted aides, reportedly raised concerns about his controversial tweet posted on Friday, May 29. Trump had written: "I can't stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis... These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you." He later added: "It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement."
The president's comments came shortly after protests and rioting intensified in Minneapolis. Trump's tweet was later flagged by Twitter for violating the company’s rules about glorifying violence. The controversial phrase "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" was popularized by segregationist Miami Police Chief Walter Headley in 1967. When asked by his usage of the phrase, the president denied knowing the history of the phrase.
In his attempt of clarification, he later tweeted: "Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night — or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means. It was spoken as a fact, not as a statement. It’s very simple, nobody should have any problem with this other than the haters, and those looking to cause trouble on social media. Honor the memory of George Floyd!"
Among others who expressed their concerns about his usage of the phrase included Mark Zuckerberg. A representative of the social media giant, on the morning of May 29, raised concerns with the White House about the president's language and urged Trump aides to moderate his approach. The outlet reported that Trump made a phone call to Zuckerberg the same day, during which the Facebook CEO expressed concerns about the tone and the rhetoric in his recent tweets. A source told the outlet that Zuckerberg "didn't make any specific requests" to Trump.
Zuckerberg also reportedly let Trump know that he personally disagreed with his incendiary rhetoric, and added that the Republican was putting Facebook in a difficult position, another source told Axios.
The president, next day, appeared to show a softer side as he expressed sympathy with Floyd's family while denouncing rioters at the same time.
"The death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis was a tragedy," Trump said. "It should never have happened. It has filled Americans across the country with horror, anger, and grief. I understand the pain that people are feeling. We support the right of peaceful protesters, and we hear their pleas. Unfortunately, what we are now seeing on the streets of our cities has nothing to do with justice or peaceful protests. The memory of George Floyd is being dishonored by rioters, looters, and anarchists."