WASHINGTON, July 8, 2019 — The guest list for Thursday’s White House Social Media Summit includes a cartoonist known for anti-Semitic images and a pro-Trump activist whose claim that Sen. Kamala Harris is not an “American Black” was retweeted by President Trump’s son, but no representatives from the world’s largest social media platforms.
Last week, the White House confirmed that it would host the event, which an administration official said is being organized by the White House Office of Digital Strategy. That office is headed by Daniel Scavino, a Trump confidante who manages the President’s social media presence.
In an emailed statement, Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said the July 11 event would “bring together digital leaders for a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”
Representatives from two of the world’s largest social media companies — Facebook and Twitter — would not confirm whether anyone from their companies had been invited, and the White House would not provide any information on who would be attending the event.
But two of the “digital leaders” who Trump administration officials have invited to the White House have garnered notoriety for social media postings which critics have characterized as racist or anti-Semetic.
One such invitee, political cartoonist Ben Garrison, tweeted out a photo of his invitation to the event on Friday.
— GrrrGraphics Cartoons (@GrrrGraphics) July 5, 2019
Garrison, whose cartoons are popular in right-leaning circles, is perhaps best known for a 2017 cartoon which attacked Trump’s then-National Security Adviser, Army General H.R. McMaster.
The cartoon in question, which was widely condemned as anti-Semitic, depicted McMaster and former CIA Director (and retired Army General) David Petraeus as puppets being controlled by a looming George Soros, who was in turn being manipulated by a hand labeled “Rothschilds,” a reference to the prominent family of Jewish financiers.
Another invited attendee is Ali Alexander, a Texas-based GOP activist and operative who is close to a number of pro-Trump social media personalities who’ve been banned from Twitter, including hoaxer Jacob Wohl anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer, and former Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
While the White House would not say whether he — or anyone else — is on the guest list for Thursday’s event, Alexander confirmed to BeltwayBreakfast that he’d been invited.
Alexander, who previously went by the name Ali Akbar, garnered some media attention during last month’s Democratic primary debates after a tweet he posted — questioning whether Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. is an “American Black” — was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr.
While Trump Jr. promptly deleted the tweet, the suggestion that Harris was not authentically African-American was condemned by many of her fellow primary candidates, many of whom said the attack was reminiscent of the “birther” movement which questioned whether former President Barack Obama was an American citizen.
But when reached via Twitter direct message on Monday, Alexander took pains to stress that his invitation to the White House was not a reward for his attack on Harris.
“I was invited to the White House prior to my tweet about Kamala Harris,” said Alexander, who attributed the claim made in his tweet about Harris to a statement previously made by CNN host Don Lemon.
He added that the Trump administration is just one of a number of prominent organizations that “seek [his] counsel on the Internet and speech related issues,” and said he’d had ongoing discussions with White House officials since April or May of this year.
But Ian Sams, the National Press Secretary for Harris’ 2020 campaign, suggested that the White House had a different motive for inviting Alexander.
“Trump wallows in misinformation and traffics in lies every day, so it’s no surprise he’s elevating the voice of a rightwing conspiracy theorist and fraudster who floats anti-Semitism, sexism, and racist identity smears online to get attention and divide Americans,” he said.