Did Democrats dress "a black guy as a white supremacist" to cast a bad light on supporters of former President Donald Trump? No, that's not true: The picture, which shows five people standing side by side with tiki torches, is a 2021 demonstration by a group of anti-Trump Republicans mimicking a 2017 rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent. Following the 2017 incident, many condemned Trump for failing to denounce the clashes that included neo-Nazis, instead saying there were "very fine people on both sides."
The claim appeared in a post on Twitter (archived here) published by conservative columnist and podcaster Benny Johnson on March 24, 2023. The post says:
Never forget that the same political party that promised you there were no Feds dressed as Trump supporters during January 6th also dressed a black guy as a white supremacist.
The more you know 🔥
This is what the post looked like on Twitter at the time of writing:
(Source: Twitter screenshot taken on Thu Mar 30 14:33:10 2023 UTC)
Not Democrats, Republicans
The picture above is from an October 29, 2021, demonstration by The Lincoln Project, a political action committee headed by former and current Republicans committed to defeating Trump at the ballot box and fighting against candidates who support him. Multiple news organizations reported about it at the time, including Reuters and the Associated Press.
(Source: Reuters and Associated Press screenshots taken on Thu Mar 30 16:26 2023 UTC)
The Lincoln Project claimed responsibility for the small demonstration with the tiki torches. It released the following statement on October 29, 2021:
Glenn Youngkin has said: 'President Trump represents so much of why I am running.' Youngkin proves it every day by trying to divide Virginians using racial code words like Critical Race Theory and supporting a ban on teaching the works of America's only Black Nobel laureate.
The Lincoln Project has run advertisements highlighting the hate unleashed in Charlottesville as well as Glenn Youngkin's continued failure to denounce Donald Trump's 'very fine people on both sides.' We will continue to draw this contrast in broadcast videos, on our social media platforms, and at Youngkin rallies.
Today's demonstration was our way of reminding Virginians what happened in Charlottesville four years ago, the Republican Party's embrace of those values, and Glenn Youngkin's failure to condemn it.
The Youngkin campaign is enraged by our reminder of Charlottesville for one simple reason: Glenn Youngkin wants Virginians to forget that he is Donald Trump's candidate.
We will continue to hold Glenn Youngkin accountable. If he will denounce Trump's assertion that the Charlottesville rioters possessed 'very fine' qualities, we'll withdraw the tiki torches. Until then, we'll be back.
The tiki torches were meant to link Youngkin, now the governor of Virginia, to a Unite the Right rally in August 2017. CNN.com's coverage of the events surrounding the protest of the planned removal of a Confederate monument included the march with the torches:
(Source: CNN.com screenshot taken on Thu Mar 30 17:08:02 2023 UTC)
In the aftermath of the violence, which included a self-described neo-Nazi plowing into a crowd of peaceful counter protesters and killing one of them, then-President Trump said, "But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides" of the white supremacist rally and counter-demonstration.
About Benny Johnson
As a Buzzfeed writer in 2014, Johnson was fired for what his employers described as 41 blog posts in which he plagiarized other writers or failed to correctly cite his source of information.
More Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to Benny Johnson and The Benny Show, his podcast, can be found here.