Why Donald Trump Unfurled An Upside Down Rainbow Flag Onstage

"Put the camera on us, faggot!" screamed a supporter at a prior event.
Carlo Allegri / Reuters

In one of the more bizarre moments of his campaign ― but likely among the most calculated events this week ― Donald Trump unfurled a large rainbow flag that had the words “LGBTs for Trump” scribbled across it, shortly after walking onstage at a rally in Greeley, Colorado on Sunday night.

Except that the flag was upside down.

The rainbow flag is a series of six stripes, all having very specific meaning according to the creator of the flag in 1978, Gilbert Baker. The top stripe is red, symbolizing life, and the bottommost stripe is violet, symbolizing spirit. Trump’s flag was upside down, even though the handwriting was right side up. In other words, whoever scribbled on it didn’t have an awareness that the flag was upside down when he or she wrote on it.

Trump took the flag from a supporter who happened to be conveniently placed up near the stage, making it seem as if he simply saw it in the crowd and wanted to take it on the stage. But it appeared to be folded up when handed to him, so it’s hard to believe that Trump could see exactly what it was ― unless he knew ahead of time that someone would be handing him a rainbow flag. He then unfurled it onstage, paraded it back and forth for less than a minute, and then gave it back to the person in the crowd who’d handed it to him.

Gay Trump supporter, Chris Barron, formerly of GOProud and now founder of the tiny LGBT for Trump (even the Log Cabin Republicans decided not to endorse Trump), tweeted early the next morning that “Trump made history last night” and is “the most pro-LGBT Pres candidate ever nominated by either party.” (This of course is patently false and ridiculous, since Trump has opposed rights such as a marriage equality, consistently since he first discussed it in 2000, and has now surrounded himself with ardent homophobes like Ben Carson while he has further pushed an anti-LGBTQ agenda, as I’ve written about in depth in several pieces.) But it remained unclear who wrote on Trump’s flag, because, as stated, anyone with any familiarity of the flag would know it was upside down. It also seems odd that anyone with familiarity would use the term “LGBTs”, with an “s” added at the end.

So, considering this flag-waving might have been staged ― and that the person who wrote on it may not have even been queer and didn’t know which way the flag went ― why would the campaign choose this night to have Trump parade the flag, and then have gay supporters tweeting away that Trump is so pro-LGBTQ?

Perhaps it had something to do with what happened earlier in the day at Trump’s rally in Las Vegas. Trump urged the media to pan out across the crowd, targeting the media as the enemy for not showing the full breadth of his audience, and bringing on all kinds of verbal onslaughts on the media contained in a pen ― as he often does. One supporter then yelled at the reporters, presumably specifically at a cameraperson, loudly and clearly, “Put the camera on us, faggot! Put the camera on us, queer!” The anti-gay rant, captured on video, soon went viral.

That had followed an action on Friday, just two days before, in which a supporter in a “Hillary for Prison” t-shirt pointed to the media and, joining the crowd’s chants of “USA!,” began chanting, “Jew-S-A!,” which was caught by CNN’s cameras. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was forced to agree on CNN that the man was “deplorable,” the term Hillary Clinton had of course used for some of Trump’s supporters.

With a week left in the race and having a difficult path to 270 electoral votes, Trump’s handlers clearly want to stay focused on the FBI and emails, as Trump makes a Hail Mary pass, going to the bluest of states like New Mexico and Michigan (where he’s not led in any polls) and still defending red states in which he’s been losing ground, like Arizona. They’re ever aware of how both he and his supporters can whip up hate, going off-message ― and forcing Conway to talk about such actions on news programs rather than the emails. So it seems like they came up with a plan to counter the anti-gay hate attack in Vegas on Sunday by orchestrating Trump coming out with a rainbow flag later in the day in Colorado.

Ironically, as the Trump supporter in Vegas was hurling anti-gay slurs –- and no one among the supporters or Trump staff did anything to counter him or stop him ― Hillary Clinton was in the gay enclave of Wilton Manors, Florida, promising to get the LGBT Equality Act passed.

That is far from what Trump has promised –- he’s in fact promised anti-LGBTQ groups that he will sign the GOP-backed First Amendment Defense Act, specifically created to allow for discrimination against LGBTQ people, and has said he will put justices on the Supreme Court who would overturn the historic Obergefell decision which brought marriage equality to the entire nation.

But maybe if the Trump campaign tries again in these last days of the election to fake support for LGBTQ equality, they’ll get the flag right side up.

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