Mary Hart is being accused by some on social media of using a white power okay hand signal at President Donald Trump’s speech at South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore. She denies the allegation.
According to NBC Palm Springs, Hart said:
A white supremacist symbol? Are you kidding me? I would never use one and never knew that the ‘okay’ sign was anything but positive. My South Dakota parents instilled in me to respect everyone and that means everyone, no matter their skin color or religion. I was invited to my home state of South Dakota to introduce my friend, Gov. Kristi Noem, which I did. And I was proud to be at our great shrine of democracy, Mt. Rushmore.
Hart made the movement with her hands while referring to the “incredible audience” at Mount Rushmore for the president’s Independence Day celebration.
You can watch the video causing all of the controversy here:
See a longer version of Hart’s speech here,
Hart and her husband Burt Sugarman have donated money to Trump’s campaigns. Some people in Palm Springs are now calling for Palm Spring’s Film Festival to sever its ties to Hart due to her Trump support, NBC Palm Springs reported. Hart’s son is a special assistant to the president for legislative affairs, according to his LinkedIn page.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Anti-Defamation League Says the Okay Hand Single Can Symbolize White Supremacy
Of course, the okay hand signal has been around for years and hasn’t always had a racial connotation. That changed in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“In 2017, the ‘okay hand gesture acquired a new and different significance thanks to a hoax by members of the website 4chan to falsely promote the gesture as a hate symbol, claiming that the gesture represented the letters ‘wp,’ for ‘white power,'” the site reports. “The ‘okay’ gesture hoax was merely the latest in a series of similar 4chan hoaxes using various innocuous symbols; in each case, the hoaxers hoped that the media and liberals would overreact by condemning a common image as white supremacist.”
However, what started as a hoax became so successful the symbol “became a popular trolling tactic on the part of right-leaning individuals, who would often post photos to social media of themselves posing while making the ‘okay’ gesture,” ADL says. The group says that the symbol then became an actual sign of white power to some.
“By 2019, at least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy, such as when Australian white supremacist Brenton Tarrant flashed the symbol during a March 2019 courtroom appearance soon after his arrest for allegedly murdering 50 people in a shooting spree at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand,” the site notes.
Protests Have Erupted at Mount Rushmore
Protests have erupted outside Mount Rushmore. According to the Argus Journal, 21 were arrested during a protest near Mount Rushmore that was related to Trump’s visit. The argument against Mount Rushmore often stems from the sacred nature of the Black Hills to Native American people.
“Even though we negotiated with the group in good faith, they made the decision not to honor their word,” Sheriff Kevin Thom said in a news release on July 6. “The result was a protest that was no longer peaceful.”
In his speech, Trump said,
Today, we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. I am here as your President to proclaim before the country and before the world: This monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defaced, their legacy will never, ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.”
You can read the president’s full speech here.
READ NEXT: Can You Get Coronavirus From Money?