President Donald Trump spent time over the Presidents’ Day weekend in the company of right-wing media figures who have a history of pushing anti-Muslim bigotry and conspiracy theories.
At a private event at his Florida property, Mar-a-Lago, on February 18, Trump met with Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy and radio host Michael Savage. Savage, whose wife Janet Weiner is a member of Mar-a-Lago, tweeted a photo of the get-together, writing, “PRES. TRUMP THANKS SAVAGE FOR VICTORY! W/ CHRIS RUDDY NEWSMAX! Mar-a-Lago.”
Savage, a conspiracy theorist with an extensive history of bigotry, was an early backer of Trump’s campaign and said last February that he was “the architect of Trump’s messaging.” In 2006, Savage called for “kill[ing] 100 million” Muslims. Following the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, in March 2016, Savage asked Trump to consider “closing the radical mosques in America.” In December, Savage mocked Muslim-Americans worried about Trump’s election, suggested Muslim immigrants came here “to stab people in the street, jump the curb with a car and run them over,” and argued that if you “interpret” the Quran “literally, you'll wind up cutting everyone's throat, blowing things up, and killing children.” Savage was also a birther, like Trump, who said Obama’s birth certificate was not valid, and claimed that Obama was gearing up to “fight a war against white people” and that Obama was engaging in “genocide” against white people. He has demanded a “revolution” in response to multiculturalism.
Savage regularly hosted Trump on his program throughout his campaign, and Trump has thanked him for being “amazing,” “really nice,” and “so loyal.” Last year after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died, Trump went on Savage’s show and questioned whether Scalia had been murdered. Savage claimed that Scalia “was found dead under suspicious circumstances,” and Trump said that ”they found a pillow on his face, which is a pretty unusual place to find a pillow.”
In 2008, Savage claimed that autism was “a fraud” because “in 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out.” Savage also has claimed that former President Barack Obama wanted “to infect the nation with Ebola,” attacked those with PTSD as “weak” and “narcissistic” “losers,” claimed lesbians are “jealous that they don't have an AIDS epidemic that they can cash in on,” and suggested that seltzer water and its “little bubbles of carbon dioxide” have driven liberals to “insanity.” More recently, Savage said in December that homeless people were “bums” and that the word “homeless” was “a construct of the radical left.” Trump has said that America would get “common sense” if Savage headed the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Ruddy, a longtime personal friend of Trump’s and the CEO of Newsmax, said in 2011 that Media Matters was “right” that Newsmax was an “early and enthusiastic promoter of Trump's presidential ambitions.” The website also repeatedly pushed the false claim that Obama’s birth certificate was not real. Ruddy himself said in 2009 that while there was “no evidence" Obama wasn't born in the United States, “there's some legitimate issues involving the birth certificate.” Earlier this month, Ruddy criticized Trump’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, saying there’s “a lot of weakness coming out of the chief of staff."
Another radio host, Laura Ingraham, who also was in Florida with Trump, shared the same photo on Twitter of the Mar-a-Lago event as Savage. Ingraham, a staunch supporter of Trump and one of Trump’s initial considerations for press secretary, has a history of using xenophobic rhetoric, such as claiming that Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” suggesting that northern Virginia is “a problem” because of an “illegal immigrant population” and “mosques going up,” and saying that she doesn’t “think of Jewish people as minorities because they're so successful.” Earlier this month, she speculated about whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s resignation, which came after he lied about discussing Russian sanctions with a Russian ambassador, was due to a “setup” by “neoconservatives.”