He was joking, but not really. That seems to be the message from Donald Trump Jr. after he posted a meme on his Instagram account that called former Vice President Joe Biden a pedophile. The meme that the president’s eldest son posted for his 2.8 million followers includes a picture of Biden saying, “See you later, alligator” while an alligator below replies, “In a while, pedophile.”
When he was asked about it by the New York Times, Trump Jr. borrowed from his father’s tactics and wrote on Twitter that he was only kidding, telling his 5 million followers that the three laughing emojis in the caption of his post “should indicate to anyone with a scintilla of common sense” that he was just “joking around.” But then in the same post he also suggested there was something to the meme, saying the former vice president was guilty of “unwanted touching” as he included several obviously misleading photos of Biden with children.
The president’s son didn’t stop there. He continued to make clear he was going to continue pushing the baseless attack as he retweeted several supporters who agreed with his allegation. He then proceeded to tweet a video compilation of Biden showing affection to children, largely at swearing-in ceremonies at the Capitol. “All the touching & hair sniffing is TOTALLY APPROPRIATE & 100% NORMAL,” he wrote in the tweet he has now pinned to his profile. “Everyone does it!” Trump Jr. then doubled down on a subsequent tweet that included another video compilation: “Does anyone really think this is normal behavior from Joe!???”
The attack against Biden is only the latest example of how Trump and his allies appear to be gearing up to run what could very well be the dirtiest campaign in modern history. The president’s campaign has bought Facebook ads questioning Biden’s mental health, accusing the Democrat of being “old and out of it.” Trump has directly questioned Biden’s mental capacity, saying Biden “doesn’t know he’s alive.” Amid the insults, Trump has also reprised his old catchphrase that gave him lots of mileage in the last campaign, calling on his opponent to be “locked up.” This time, Trump suggested Biden should go to prison for the “greatest political crime in the history of our country,” which he, of course, did not specify.
For now at least, Biden appears set against falling into these clear provocations from the Trump camp, characterizing them as efforts to distract Americans as the coronavirus crisis continues to engulf the nation. Some of Biden’s allies are convinced that Trump’s strategy will end up backfiring considering the soaring unemployment rate and rising COVID-19 death toll. “The public is really focused on what matters in this election. And they’re not being dragged into side issues and they are not being dragged into manufactured issues,” Mike Donilon, the senior strategist for Biden’s campaign, tells the Washington Post. “It’s just too serious. So I think Trump is risking a real problem in trying to push the conversation to a place where the country knows that’s not what’s at stake.”