‘I bet US$500 they are lying’: Donald Trump fans sceptical about arrest of ‘bomber’
- ‘They are trying to make it look like Donald Trump is encouraging terrorism. The truth is, the liberals are the terrorists,’ said a Trump supporter at a rally
As Donald Trump’s fans gathered in Charlotte, North Carolina, for his latest midterm campaign rally, many dismissed as a hoax the arrest in Florida of an apparent supporter of the president as the suspect behind mail bombs sent to 13 Democrats.
As Trump supporters streamed into Bojangles’ Coliseum on Friday afternoon, many soaking wet from hours in relentless rain, the prevailing response to the arrest and charging of 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc – whose former lawyer said was mentally ill – was profound scepticism. At best, the connection between the Florida resident and the president was tenuous. At worst it was an outright lie.
Terry Pennington, 52 and from the outskirts of Charlotte, waited in the rain since 9pm on Thursday, some 22 hours before Trump was expected to speak. He was wearing a camouflage jacket with “Constitution Enforcement – protected by the 2nd Amendment” written on it. He had no doubt about what lay behind the arrest.
“I bet US$500 they are lying,” he said. “I bet it was a liberal who did it. Have you stopped to think why those bombs were only sent to high-level Democrats? They are trying to make it look like Donald Trump is encouraging terrorism. The truth is, the liberals are the terrorists.”
His wife agreed.
“It seems like a lot’s been planted to make it look like a Trump supporter did it,” said Carrie Pennington, 48.
In her view, the arrest of a suspect with clear ideological ties to Trump was an elaborate distraction from an impending rout by Republicans in the midterm elections.
“They’re just trying to deflect us from voting and focusing on the red tsunami that’s about to hit,” she said.
References to a Republican or “red” electoral “tsunami” were among memes reportedly posted to social media by Sayoc.
Some 10,000 Trump supporters were expected to fill the Bojangles’ Coliseum to hear the president address his fourth rally this week. In his last appearance, in Mosinee, Wisconsin, he called for national unity before returning swiftly to familiar attacks on media and the Democrats.
According to a criminal complaint issued from the southern district of New York, Sayoc owned a white van that was “covered with images including images critical of CNN”. The van also had stickers on it that criticised several of the Democrats who were the intended recipients of the mail bombs.
Trump’s devoted followers in the sports arena were also scathing about that. Kathy Chenette, 62, a property agent from Mooresville, North Carolina, said she had read on Twitter that the same configuration of stickers on the back of the van had been photographed on the side of the van.
“This was obviously Photoshopped,” she said. “I think it’s a distraction against the invasion of illegal immigrants at the border. It’s all set up by Soros.”
George Soros, the billionaire financier, activist and philanthropist, was one of those who had a bomb mailed to his address. In the criminal complaint, prosecutors alleged that comments critical of Soros were posted on Wednesday on a Twitter account believed to be used by Sayoc.
“We just don’t know,” said Tyler Yelton, 43, who works as a landscaper. “Maybe he bought the van already with the stickers on it, or maybe this whole thing is a set-up.”
Additional reporting by Associated Press