The mug shot of former President Donald Trump was destined to be an iconic image since news first broke that he would surrender in Fulton County, Georgia, following his fourth criminal indictment this year. While it is a landmark moment for the principle of holding power accountable, several figures in right-wing media are also claiming that — thanks to the mug shot — “the hood is now going all-in for Trump.”
Relying largely on a handful of viral videos, including various TikToks and clips of Black people watching Trump’s motorcade en route to the Fulton County Jail, right-wing media are attempting to counter the obvious potential impact of the mug shot by declaring that it “turned Trump into a sympathetic character in Black America.”
These conservative media figures theorize that not only does the photo render Trump “an outsider with swagger,” like rapper Tupac Shakur, but that when they look at it, Black voters will see themselves or “their cousin who was selling weed on the corner,” and be inspired to support him. And if “nationally, 1 or 2% of the Black votes swing to the Republicans, that's the election right there.”
Despite these commentators failing to explain why they are so quick to associate Black people with crime, and despite Trump’s own infamously long and nasty record of racism, right-wing media are convinced (or perhaps just hopeful) that the mug shot could give Trump a decisive edge in “the streets,” leading him to defeat President Joe Biden in the 2024 election.
On Fox News’ talk show The Five, co-host Jesse Watters claimed that “the Democrats, you can tell, are nervous” because the mug shot is turning out to be “a huge political gift, which will last until eternity.”
“Black Americans online, some of them are saying I'm voting for Trump now,” Watters said, “because they too have sometimes felt they've been unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system.”
Later, on his own show, Watters repeated that “the mug shot’s turned Trump into a sympathetic character in Black America” — “a martyr” who “represents someone persecuted by the man.”
“The streets are talking about him in a way they’ve never talked about him before,” he added.
Also on Fox, host Laura Ingraham asked Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), who is Black, if “African American men, after telling them for years that the justice system is corrupt and crooked, … they are looking at some of this and going, ‘whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, now they are targeting him!’” — taking apparent care to characterize Black opinion of the justice system as merely “corrupt and crooked,” not necessarily racist.
Later on The Ingraham Angle, frequent guest Raymond Arroyo celebrated that Trump’s mug shot means that “now, he joins Frank Sinatra. He joins Elvis Presley. He joins Johnny Cash, and Tupac Shakur” as a cultural figure who is popularly seen as “a rebel, an outsider with swagger.”
“As one Black lady I spoke with earlier today here in New Orleans said, ‘Trump's a gangsta.’” Arroyo helpfully explained for the audience, “That means he has cred among a new bloc of voters that perhaps have never given him a serious look, and now they are looking again.”
“He enters the pantheon of a pop culture icon now with this image,” Arroyo declared, predicting that it could lead Trump’s Black support to jump to as much as 20%.
“The election’s over if that’s the case,” Ingraham replied. “It’s totally over.”
On Newsmax, conservative commentator Mercedes Schlapp said that “you're starting to see Black voters supporting Donald Trump” because they see that authorities are “treating this man unfairly in the same way that many in our community have been treated unfairly by an aggressive justice system” — again missing an opportunity to discuss the racial reasons for this common sentiment.
In a superficial reference to the televised murder trial of former football star O.J. Simpson, host Chris Plante replied that Trump’s Georgia arrest was “another O.J. moment,” entirely ignoring how Simpson’s trial came to stand in for the disastrous state of race relations in mid-1990s Los Angeles.
Instead, Plante appeared to simply mean that in both cases, Black people liked the guy the cops were going after.
“I played some great audio on my radio show today of Black people out on the streets saying some really interesting things about supporting President Trump and again saying we’ve been, as Black people, have been dealing with this forever, and they recognize what’s going on with President Trump.”
Disgraced right-wing podcaster Steven Crowder claimed that “a lot of Black Americans like people who aren’t going in as snitches,” though it’s unclear on whom Trump would snitch, given that he is at the head of the alleged conspiracy. “It backfired so bigly,” Crowder said, “that the hood is now going all-in for Trump,” at first playing a clip of Leprechaun in the Hood, a movie he laughingly admitted is “intensely racist,” then several videos of Black men professing or describing Trump support.
“Black Americans used to view it as white-Black,” Crowder later mused, “and Donald Trump opened their eyes to it's really about the corrupt and the people who they don't want to be involved.”
Having now seen Trump “go through the same kind of shit that their buddy did, or their cousin who was selling weed on the corner,” Crowder predicted that Black voters will realize that “maybe it’s not a Black-white thing. Maybe we can link arms with other white people, Asian — people who've been gamed by the system.”
Crowder concluded: “I think that if Donald Trump is the nominee, he is going to receive a record number of Black votes.”