President Donald Trump on Monday took aim at NASCAR’s Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, a prominent Black driver, falsely claiming on Twitter the racing sport’s recent anti-racist stance lowered its television ratings.
“Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX?” Trump tweeted. “That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
The president’s tweet comes as he’s made his views on race front-and-center to his re-election campaign following protests and a growing national discussion on race after George Floyd’s death in police custody.
NASCAR drivers have rallied to support Wallace. NASCAR Cup Series driver Tyler Reddick tweeted in response to Trump, “We don’t need an apology.”
Courtney Weber, a spokesperson for Richard Petty Motorsports and Wallace, said the team is aware of Trump’s tweet.
“Wallace has extensively exhausted the topic via a multitude of interviews in recent weeks. It is clear there is nothing more to say,” Weber said.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Fox News said Trump’s tweet was part of a “broader point” about the “rush to judgment.”
“The president is merely pointing out that we have to let facts come out before we rush to judgment,” she said.
Speaking with Fox News Radio, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and a prominent Trump ally, said he didn’t think Wallace “has anything to apologize for.”
“You saw the best in NASCAR,” he said. “When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace, they all rallied to Bubba’s side. So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried it’s a hoax.”
Since NASCAR announced a ban on the Confederate flag last month, the sport has seen a boost in television ratings. Overnight ratings following the sport’s June race at Martinsville, which immediately followed the banning announcement, were up 104 percent over a comparable 2019 race.
The Talladega race later in June, where the noose incident Trump referenced happened, rated as the most-watched Monday contest in years. NASCAR has also benefited from being one of the few live events on TV, as most other sports remain idled in the U.S. due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Before Talladega, a door-pull rope shaped like a noose was found in Wallace’s assigned garage, raising questions about whether it had been placed there intentionally in response to his outspokenness in support of banning the Confederate flag at NASCAR events. Fellow NASCAR drivers marched alongside his car in a show of unity afterwards. The FBI investigated the incident and ruled out a hate crime, citing video evidence showing the rope was in the stall months before it was assigned to Wallace. NASCAR released a photo of the rope to dispel the idea it was a hoax.
“I was relieved just like many others to know that it wasn’t targeted towards me,” Wallace told Craig Melvin on NBC’s “TODAY” last month. “But it’s still frustrating to know that people are always going to test you and always just going to try and debunk you and that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around now.”
As a politician, Trump’s history with NASCAR dates back to early in his presidential campaign when he won the endorsement of the sport’s top leadership. At this year’s Daytona 500, Trump took the presidential limo on the track as a pace car before the race began. And at this weekend’s Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis, one driver began racing in a fully decked-out pro-Trump branded car. He crashed a few laps into the race.
This weekend, Trump delivered a lengthy speech on defending statues from being removed or torn down and has increasingly bashed protesters.
The White House said he didn’t hear the comment when he posted.