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Did a White House Intern Make the ‘White Power’ Hand Gesture?

Fraud Alert:

CLAIM

An intern made a white supremacist hand gesture in a photograph with President Trump.




UNPROVEN

RATING

UNPROVEN

ORIGIN

On 28 December 2017, British tabloid the Daily Mail reported that a White House intern had flashed a “white power” sign with his hand while taking an official photograph alongside United States President Donald Trump:

A former White House intern is coming under fire after flashing a known ‘white power’ sign during a photo-op with President Donald Trump.

Jack Breuer, who graduated from Emory University in Atlanta this year, is clearly bucking orders — personally given by the president — to give a thumbs-up in the picture that was taken in the White House in November.

While the other hundred or so interns smile and follow Trump’s command, Breuer, a dentist’s son who grew up in Chicago’s western suburbs, stands stony-faced giving the ‘OK’ sign that has been linked with far-right groups.

The photograph can be seen embedded in this tweet authored by Washington Times writer Jessica Chasmar:

The only evidence the Daily Mail offered for the assumption Breuer was making a hate symbol with his hand was the photograph that showed Breuer along with dozens of other interns standing alongside President Trump. All but Breuer were smiling and making the “thumbs up” gesture, but a straight-faced Breuer held his forefinger and thumb together with his other fingers splayed out.

Some associate the gesture with the alt-right movement and white supremacists like Richard Spencer, but Breuer denied that he was making a white supremacist hand signal. Notably, the Daily Mail did not speak to Breuer before publishing their rather devastating story about a private citizen, and their only on-the-record source for the story was a fellow intern — who they did not name for unexplained reasons. We reached out to Breuer on social media, but got no response.

Breuer appears to have a Twitter account he created in December 2017 for the sole purpose of refuting the accusations against him. There he released a statement on 28 December 2017, saying that he has Jewish heritage and the hand gesture he made was intended to mimic Trump’s unique way of gesticulating when he speaks, not signal white supremacists leanings:

The intern who spoke to the Daily Mail told the outlet:

Context is everything. Jack is pictured with President Trump, one of the most controversial leaders we’ve had.

It is a distinct symbol known in alt-right circles and what makes it worse is that he is doing it in the East Room just below the portrait of George Washington.

The intern then cast doubt on their own allegation, saying:

Jack’s a good kid and is probably doing it as a joke. Some people do consider it a joke because it is the OK sign.

The Daily Mail reported that Breuer interned for White House aide Stephen Miller. We reached out to the White House Press Office for confirmation and comment, and got no response. Breuer’s brief Twitter biography says he is a “former White House intern,” and that he graduated from Emory University in 2017 with a degree in Environmental Science.

According to the prominent anti-hate group the Anti-Defamation League, the idea that the hand gesture signifies white supremacist sympathies is an Internet hoax:

Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger “OK” hand gesture become a white supremacist hand sign? Well, no, it hasn’t, but you are likely to hear just the opposite from social media, thanks to the latest hoax from members of notorious website 4chan.

The site 4chan is an anonymous discussion board with an outsized cultural impact on the Internet. It has been responsible for everything from the “I can haz cheeseburger” cat meme to the concept of rickrolling. There is little that 4channers like so much as a hoax and in recent months they have served up a number of fakeries with white supremacist themes to largely credulous on-line audiences.

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***.”

In February 2017, Miller was himself accused of using the gesture in a Reuters photograph.

Although far-right characters like Spencer, Gateway Pundit bloggers Jim Hoft and Lucian Wintrich, and former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos have famously used the gesture, its meaning outside that political circle is amorphous. Breuer has denied he was making a hand gesture associated with hate groups, and what was going through his mind at that moment is unknowable. Resting on an unnamed source cited by a tabloid with a track record for being unreliable is hardly determinate evidence of what Breuer was thinking, or why he made the gesture.

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Sources:

Gould, Martin. “EXCLUSIVE: White Power at the White House – Trump Intern Flashes ‘Alt-Right’ Symbol Used by Notorious Extremists During Group Photo With the President.”
  The Daily Mail. 28 December 2017.

Bishop, Rollin. “The OK Sign Is Becoming an Alt-Right Symbol.”
  The Outline. 24 April 2017.

Anti-Defamation League. “No, the ‘OK’ Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol.”
  1 May 2017.

Jackson, Jasper. “Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail as ‘Unreliable’ Source.”
  The Guardian. 8 February 2017.

Article source: https://www.snopes.com/intern-white-power-hand-gesture/