Trump Falsely Accuses an Elderly Buffalo Protester of Staging His Violent Police Encounter

The president appears to have picked up the conspiracy theory from a far-right Russian reporter.

Doug Mills/ZUMA

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Even by the ever-sinking standards of President Trump’s fondness for right-wing conspiracy theories, his latest is something to behold.

On Tuesday, Trump accused the elderly protester who was violently shoved to the ground by Buffalo police last Thursday of staging the incident as an operation for Antifa. The incredible accusation—entirely baseless—defies the reality captured in a widely seen video that has since led to the firing of the two officers who pushed 75-year-old Martin Gugino, causing him to bleed from the head, during a protest against police brutality outside Buffalo’s City Hall.

Trump’s effort to smear Gugino, and by extension defend the two officers now charged with felony assault, follows the Buffalo Police Department’s initial claim that Gugino “tripped and fell.” The president’s tweet came just hours before George Floyd is to be laid to rest in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

Trump’s outburst appears to echo a segment from the far-right news network One America News, which floated the conspiracy theory that Gugino had been attempting to “scan” police communications during the protest. “I watched,” Trump wrote, “he fell harder than was pushed.”

The reporter in the OAN segment, as Media Matters’ Matt Gertz noted, is Kristian Rouz—a Russian national who also writes for the Kremlin-owned news outlet Sputnik. The Daily Beast has more on Rouz:

Kremlin propaganda sometimes sneaks into Rouz’s segments on unrelated matters, dropped in as offhand background information. A segment on the Syrian rescue workers known as the White Helmets references “allegations of the White Helmets’ involvement in military activities, executions, and numerous war atrocities,” but doesn’t disclose that those “allegations” were hoaxes that originated with Vladimir Putin and his proxies. […]

Rouz joined OAN at a time when his Russian employer was coming under heightened scrutiny over its role in Putin’s election interference, and its efforts to expand its American influence. 

As of Monday, Gugino remains hospitalized in “serious but stable condition.”

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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