Anyone watching President Trump’s speech in Phoenix Tuesday night couldn’t miss the man conspicuously seated behind the podium holding a “Blacks for Trump” sign and wearing a T-shirt that reads “Trump & Republicans are not racist.”
Michael Symonette, who goes by “Michael the Black Man” and sometimes Maurice Symonette, is a fringe political figure in Florida and has become a familiar face at conservative rallies and Trump events around Miami. He was even seen marching with a group holding “Blacks for Trump” signs through Times Square on election night last year.
Symonette’s conspicuous placement behind Trump’s podium at many rallies appears to be an optics exercise for an administration that’s been plagued with accusations of racism. Even a cursory glance at this supporter’s history is enough to raise questions about his proximity to the commander in chief.
But it also seems that he might be exploiting the attention he gets as the Blacks for Trump creator on stage behind Trump to attract followers for his deeply racist and wildly unhinged spiritual views.
For starters, his trademark T-shirt lists a website Gods2.com, which redirects viewers to honestfact.com, a page teeming with outlandish conspiracy theories, compared to which Alex Jones is a voice of calm reason. He thinks the Cherokee Indians were “the real KKK slave masters” and that Hillary Clinton is secretly plotting with ISIS to kill all black and white women in America.
His alternative history holds that black and white people were in the Americas before the Native Americans and must unite against the Cherokee Indians. A display of the Confederate battle flag is captioned “Cherokee Democrat Flag.”
The website has a long list of mostly incomprehensible headlines like “ROCKERFELLER IS NIMROD KING OF THE CANAANITES & SAUD THE KING OF THE ISHMAELITES MASONIC ILLUMINATI TRILATERALIST BIG BANKS KKK.”
Among his deranged claims are that former President Barack Obama is a “shape shifting mason who acts Black but is Cherokee.”
Symonette posts many unhinged rants on YouTube. In one video he asked viewers to donate money so he could follow Trump around the country with his “Blacks for Trump” signs to convince more people to become Republicans.
“I want to take hundreds of brothers around the country to let other white people and other black people see us standing with him,” Symonette said. “That’s why we have gods2.com [on the shirts and signs], so that people will know why we’re standing up for him, that we’re not just a bunch of Uncle Tom sellouts. That’s why I’ve never taken a payment.”
He said he’s actively opposed Democrats since 1997. He led a protest against Obama during a rally in Coral Gables, Fla., in 2008 and claims that this led to an assassination attempt.
“I’m the same black man who got shot in the back of the head because I stood up against Obama by assassins sent by Obama,” he said.
According to Media Matters, Symonette’s old websites promoted a book that called Oprah Winfrey “the devil” and Obama “the beast 666.”
He is a former member of the Nation of Yahweh, a violent black supremacist cult that was led by the charismatic Hulon Mitchell Jr. Mitchell went by the name Yahweh Ben Yahweh, which means “the Lord son of the Lord.” He was convicted of conspiring to kill white people as an initiation right in 1992 and served 11 years of an 18-year sentence related to 14 murders in Miami in the 1980s.
Miami New Times reports that Symonette was charged with conspiracy in connection with two of the murders. His brother, another member of the cult, told the jury that Symonette beat one man who was later murdered and stuck a sharpened stick through another’s eye. Symonette was acquitted, but Mitchell and 14 followers were convicted. Mitchell died in 2007.
It’s unclear whether the Trump administration knows about Symonette’s radical views or ties to the violent cult. But Trump routinely pointed out the “Blacks for Trump” signs during rallies.
During an October stop in Sanford, Fla., for instance, Trump shouted, “Look at those signs behind me. Blacks for Trump! I like those signs. Blacks for Trump! You watch. You watch. Those signs are great! Thank you.”
Yahoo News asked the U.S. Secret Service whether it had any concerns about Symonette being in such proximity to the president.
Special Agent Joseph A. Casey responded: “Members of the general public who are granted access to a U.S. Secret Service protected site are subjected to established security protocols. For security reasons, the Secret Service does not comment on the means or methods used to conduct protective operations.”
The audience at rallies is screened by walk-through metal detectors and security guards with magnetometer wands. There is no additional vetting for people seated behind the president. Those seats are typically given to VIPs and additional people selected from the crowd, clearly prioritizing certain people for public relations purposes. “Women for Trump” signs, for instance, were a common sight behind Trump at the height of backlash to the infamous “Access Hollywood” tapes.
Symonette has attended many other Republican events over the years. He’s posted pictures of himself posing with Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president. He spoke a Rick Santorum rally in January 2012 in Coral Springs, Fla., where he described Democrats as “the worst thing that ever happen to the black man. They’re the slave masters.”
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