WASHINGTON — Media covering Republican candidate Donald Trump’s campaign have become accustomed to abuse from his supporters. But on Saturday, a BuzzFeed reporter covering one of his rallies noticed a new dynamic unfolding.
“Lügenpresse!” some of the presidential hopeful’s backers were shouting toward the press section, along with other chants more customary at Trump events, like “Tell the Truth!” and “CNN Sucks!” according to a report on the news website.
The phrase “lügenpresse” means “lying press” in German. While its roots have been said to go back to the 19th century, it is mostly known for its use by the Nazi party to delegitimize the media and invalidate its reporting.
It is a word “contaminated by the Nazis,” German linguist Nina Janich, told Reuters last year, after a panel declared the term was “the non-word of the year” in 2014, noting how it was being increasingly used by an anti-Islam segment of German society.
Trump’s rally in Cleveland, Ohio — the largest city in a battleground state that analysts say is a must-win for him — came as recent polling has shown his path to victory narrowing. He still maintains a slim lead in the Buckeye State, however, as the Real Clear Politics average has him ahead there by 0.4 points.
BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray described witnessing the term’s use over the weekend, saying that once the rally was over, a man wearing a Make America Great Again hat approached the press pen and began shouting the German phrase and then described its meaning and significance to someone next to him.
Friendly interaction outside the press pen. "Lugenpresse!" pic.twitter.com/MWUZynJ8jx
— Rosie Gray (@RosieGray) October 23, 2016
Gray tweeted a video of the exchange. She was unable to find out the names of the two men before the traveling press corps was escorted out of the arena.
The term “lügenpresse” has also been embraced by the alt-right movement, an array of white nationalists and neo-Nazis who share an extremist ethos and commitment to preserving the influence of the “white race.”
Many people associated with the alt-right movement have supported Trump throughout this election. A recent Anti-Defamation League report found that the increased anti-Semitic harassment of journalists often came from self-identified Trump backers.
Richard Spencer, who heads the National Policy Institute, a white-nationalist think-tank, told BuzzFeed in an email that “lügenpresse” has been used in the alt-right sphere for “a year, at the least.”
“I see ‘lying press’ and ‘lügenpresse’ all over the place,” he said. “It’s typical alt-right: serious…ironic…and with a sly reference to boot.”
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 23, 2016
— SamizRedDot (@SamizRedDot) October 10, 2016
— John McClane (@DieHardJMcClane) October 10, 2016
Other alt-right online publications, like Occidental Dissent, frequently use the term, as well. It can also be found as an oft-cited hashtag on Twitter.
Breitbart News, a popular online destination for alt-right circles, and a publication that has helped facilitate the rise of Trump, once published an interview that spoke admiringly of the term.
In an interview with Lutz Bachman, who founded the anti-immigration and anti-Islamic PEDIGA movement in Germany, author Raheem Kassaam said, “It will come as no surprise to many that the mainstream media would lash out against a word that highlights their own, intentional failings.
“But Bachmann’s PEGIDA has popularized the term to the point where it has become a pillar — even a rallying cry — for the nationalist, populist movements across the continent,” he said.
Breitbart’s former executive chairman, Stephen Bannon, stepped down from that position in August to become CEO of Trump’s campaign.