After an anti-Semitic image landed on presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump's Twitter account last week, the candidate, his campaign team and his former campaign manager were all unanimous: the supposed Star of David emblazoned with the words "Most Corrupt Candidate Ever" overlaid on Hillary Clinton and a pile of money was nothing more sinister than a "sheriff's star."
But someone entirely unashamed by bigotry is not making excuses. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke praised the anti-Semitic image as "Absolutely True!" on Tuesday, saying the seven top contributors to Clinton's campaign were "all Zio-Tribalists."
Obviously sensing a moment of opportunity, Duke has repeatedly challenged the "sheriff's star" explanation in other posts and interviews.
"Let's go to the tweet," Duke told BuzzFeed News. "The tweet again shows Clinton, it shows a Star of David. Of course later the campaign made the excuse, 'Well, no, that's like a sheriff's badge.' Well, no way, folks. Clinton, money, the most campaign corrupt person."
In other tweets, Duke posted "#CrookedHillary #Rigged System #TrumpWasRight #AmericaFirst" accompanied by an image of Clinton and President Barack Obama with Israeli-styled balloons floating behind them, a smear on the candidate as a "ZIO-whore," and reposted a Haaretz headline on Jewish billionaires backing Clinton.
As originally reported by Mic's Anthony Smith, an anonymous user posted the image at least one week earlier to an online white supremacist forum, and it was also seen on a Twitter account which regularly sent out racist posts. At some point, the image was modified to include a fake "Fox News Poll" graphic at the bottom and remove a watermark linking back to the second Twitter account. After Mic's report, a member of the Trump campaign team reposted a new, modified version of the graphic with the Star of David mostly covered up by a circle.
Duke also weighed in on that latter attempt at image control on July 2, posting both images side-by-side with the caption "Seems something changed? That's ok, we welcome the hidden hand exposing itself. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain #AmericaFirst".
Duke was a member of the American Nazi Party until 1975, and later a grand wizard in the Ku Klux Klan. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Duke launched an "effective Nazification" of the KKK by trying to switch its focus from blacks to Jews, and nearly won the governorship of Louisiana in 1991.
As such, Duke is the country's most visible white supremacist spokesman, which caused a major controversy earlier this year when Trump declined to criticize him and the KKK during a CNN appearance in February.
"I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists," Trump told CNN's Jake Tapper. "So I don't know. I don't know — did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."
But Trump did indeed know something about David Duke, having made previous references to the former Klan leader and his brand of racist politics in 1991 and 2000.
According to progressive group Media Matters, others to praise Trump's tweet included neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer and anti-Semitic academic Kevin MacDonald.
"This is, yet again, dog-whistling by The Leader," wrote the Daily Stormer. "It comes just after he made some offensive comments about Israel being our friend – he says this for the evangelicals, then he signals to us – his real supporters – that we need not worry, he is just shilling a bit to get into power at which point he will shut down the entire Jew agenda ... by pushing this into the media, the Jews bring to the public the fact that yes, the majority of Hilary's donors are filthy Jew terrorists."
During this campaign cycle, Trump has accrued numerous endorsements and praise from neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other racist organizations.
Sheriff's badge or Star of David? The answer is clear, if you ask white supremacists: the Donald is one of them.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016 at 7:12 p.m.: This story has been updated.