Waving a “Blacks for Trump” sign behind President Donald Trump on Tuesday night, he was impossible to miss.
Maurice Symonette, who has also called himself “Michael the Black Man” and Maurice Woodside, was an eye-catching figure during the rally in Phoenix. Trump supporters lauded him on social media for his T-shirt reading “Trump & Republicans Are Not Racist.”
Perhaps they should have checked him out first.
Between his signs and his shirt that night, Symonette was also showcasing two websites: blacksfortrump2020.com and gods2.com. Click on either and you’ll be taken to honestfact.com, which spews a range of rambling conspiracy theories.
One claims to link Hillary Clinton with the Islamic State and the criminal gang MS-13. Another declares that “Cherokees are the real KKK Racist Slave Masters, not White Gentiles who are Black Peoples Republican Emancipators!”
Symonette has uploaded a number of long-winded videos on YouTube, often as “Michael the Black Man.” There he discusses his theories on race wars involving Democrats, gentiles, Canaanites and the Cherokee.
Speaking to a Chicago radio station on Wednesday, Symonette said that he arrived early at the Phoenix rally and that allowed him to secure a prominent place close behind the president.
“I wasn’t placed [behind Trump], I put myself there,” he told WLS-AM 890. “I’m glad I was there so I could get the message out, tell people what’s going on with Democrats and the Cherokee Indians that are absolutely destroying the black man and the white man of America.”
When the radio hosts expressed surprise that he would get such a coveted seat, Symonette added, “I don’t really know how it works. They have seen me a lot of times.”
Photos posted online certainly support that statement. Symonette’s Facebook page shows pictures of him posing with a number of high-profile Republican politicians and Trump supporters, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. There are also videos of him at a rally with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and celebrating with Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway outside what appears to be Trump Tower in New York City.
And last year, the Miami New Times reported that Symonette and his signs had scored prime seating at more than one Trump rally in Florida.
Symonette has popped up in a number of mugshots as well. His rap sheet lists arrests for racketeering, firebombing, conspiracy in 14 murders, and grand theft auto, the New Times reported in 2011. None of the charges stuck, however.
“I don’t smoke. I don’t drink. I don’t support any kind of activity that goes against what God asks us to do,” he told the New Times back then. “You can check my record. I’ve never been convicted of anything.”
In the early 1990s, Symonette, who then went by the name of Maurice Woodside, was arrested along with other members of an African-American cult called the Temple of Love, the New Times reported. Its leader, Yahweh ben Yahweh (formerly known as Hulon Mitchell Jr.), was later sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit murder. Symonette was acquitted.
During Wednesday’s radio interview, Symonette defended Yahweh ben Yahweh as “not violent.”
He had told the New Times that he was 21 when he met the Temple of Love leader and became enthralled by the man’s preachings.
“He got me by just walking up and saying, ‘All white people are the Devil,’” Symonette recalled. “I was a real militant race warrior right then, so I said, ‘Whoa! Yeah, that’s right!’”
Symonette’s views have changed over the years. Long after Yahweh ben Yahweh went to prison, his former follower started participating in political protests against Barack Obama. In 2008, Symonette reportedly claimed that then-Sen. Obama had tried to have him assassinated.
Last year, he tried to paint Hillary Clinton as the presidential candidate who was too close to racists, by accusing her of once “kissing the head of the Ku Klux Klan” and saying, “That’s my mentor.” The trouble with that conspiracy theory was that the man Clinton greeted was the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who by the time she praised him had long since evolved from a one-time member of the KKK to a strong supporter of advancing civil rights.
Clarification: Language has been added to explain the problem with Symonette’s claim about Hillary Clinton’s greeting.