Zina Bash, a lawyer working with Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s team, has been accused of making the “OK” gesture during a Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Bash, 36, became a viral sensation as Kavanaugh was grilled by Democratic senators over his role in the George W. Bush White House. Some Twitter users accused her of looking “smug” and “smirking” as Kavanaugh’s hearing became the subject of protests from both Democrats on the committee and from the audience.
Later, hundreds of Twitter users became outraged as Bash appeared to make the “OK” hand gesture that has commonly been associated with right-wing trolls.
You can see the moment that created controversy in the screenshots below:
Bash’s Husband Says Her Hand Movements During the Hearing Were ‘Random’
Bash’s husband, U.S. Attorney John Bash III, issued a statement denying that Bash had used a “hateful symbol.” He said:
The attacks today on my wife are repulsive. Everyone tweeting this vicious conspiracy theory should be ashamed of themselves. We weren’t even familiar with the hateful symbol being attributed to her for the random way she rested her hand during a long hearing. Zina is Mexican on her mother’s side and Jewish on her father’s side.
She was born in Mexico. Her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. We of course have nothing to do with hate groups, which aim to terrorize and demean other people — never have and never would. Some of the Twitter comments have even referred to our baby daughter. I know that there are good folks on both sides of the political divide. I hope that people will clearly condemn this idiotic and sickening accusation.
John Bash was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas in 2017 and was sworn in earlier this year at a ceremony officiated by Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
An ADL Senior Research Fellow Has Said the Symbol Started on 4Chan as a ‘Troll Effort’ & Is Now Used by the Alt-Right, Some White Supremacists & Trump Supporters, Often to ‘Own the Libs’
Keith Dumas, who took the recorded Bash apparently making the gesture, wrote in his accompanying tweet, “Who is she? What’s up with the white power sign?”
Amid the uproar, a fake ACLU information poster about the meaning of the gesture went viral. The ACLU has denied they made the image:
Speaking about the gesture on the day of Kavanaugh’s initial confirmation hearing, Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League, said, “It began as a 4chan troll effort (I’ve written about its origins) but it has evolved into a symbol used by the alt right (and, occasionally, other white supremacists), the alt lite, and also various MAGA-type Trump supporters. Most still use it to troll (to “own the libs”).”
The ADL wrote about the “troll effort” by the 4chan users back in 2017:
The ‘OK’ hand gesture hoax originated in February 2017 when an anonymous 4channer announced ‘Operation O-KKK,’ telling other members that ‘we must flood Twitter and other social media websites…claiming that the OK hand sign is a symbol of white supremacy.’ The user even provided a helpful graphic showing how the letters WP (for ‘white power’) could be traced within an ‘OK’ gesture. The originator and others also suggested useful hashtags to help spread the hoax, such as #PowerHandPrivilege and #NotOkay. ‘Leftists have dug so deep down into their lunacy,’ wrote the poster, ‘We must force [them] to dig more, until the rest of society ain’t going anywhere near that s***.’
Following the cues of the hoax’s originator, 4channers created fake e-mail and Twitter accounts and bombarded civil rights organizations, journalists, and others with messages furthering the “OK” hoax. Some of the hoaxers were possibly racists or white supremacists themselves, as parts of 4chan are something of a haven for them and the site itself has been a source of adherents of the alt right segment of the white supremacist movement.
The “OK” symbol, “was easily described by the left as racist, because white supremacists immediately began using it and pretty much took that over from 4chan,” Pitcavage said Tuesday after the Kavanaugh hearing issue. He said the ADL post from 2017, which many have used to say that the hand symbol is not racist or a white power gesture, will be updated to reflect that it has been taken over by many who actually are hateful and has also spread in popularity.
“We are changing it to reflect its evolution since its origination but also to stress that it is not a reliable signifier and no one should assume anything about the use of such a gesture unless there are other unmistakable white supremacist signifiers in that context as well,” he wrote.
Reveal News’ Hate Report also explored the issue of the “OK” symbol in July. You can read about the history of the hand gesture and the controversy surrounding it here. “It’s clearly still being used both as a meme and a legit white power symbol by some people,” Reveal’s Will Carless tweeted.
Alt-Right Personalities Have Been Using the Gesture Since Donald Trump Began His Presidential Campaign in 2016
The symbol has been used by right-wing figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos:
Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich of the Gateway Pundit:
The hand signal has been used by the group Patriot Prayer in the past:
The Outline said in a 2017 article that the possible origin of the symbol being used by right-wing trolls may come from a meme known as “Smug Pepe.”
Pepe had been adopted by the alt-right before the “OK” gesture. Pepe’s creator, Matt Furie, told the Guardian in 2016 about his sorrow that his creation was being used by the alt-right saying, “It’s the worst-case scenario for any artist to lose control of their work and eventually have it labeled like a swastika or a burning cross.”
The ADL wrote, “The ‘OK’ hoax was actually just the most recent in a recent series of hoaxes in which 4channers (and members of other, similar places on the Internet such as 8chan and Reddit) have tried to take innocuous items, symbols or gestures and falsely attribute white supremacist meanings to them in order to fool liberals and get them to spread such false messages.”
Bash Has Also Been Defended By a Former Ted Cruz Strategist
Bash formerly worked as a communications director for Ted Cruz’s ill-fated 2016 presidential campaign. As allegations that she had used a “white power” gesture, former Cruz strategist Jason Johnson wrote on Twitter, “Right, Zina Bash, who is Hispanic, is flashing a “white power” signal. Get a grip.”
Physician Dr. Eugene Gu wrote on Twitter in response to the gesture, “Kavanaugh’s former law clerk Zina Bash is flashing a white power sign behind him during his Senate confirmation hearing. They literally want to bring white supremacy to the Supreme Court. What a national outrage and a disgrace to the rule of law.”