Trump calls on NASCAR driver Wallace to apologise after noose scandal 'hoax'
US President Donald Trump on Monday appeared to urge NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace to apologise over an incident involving a noose found in the driver's garage last month, calling it a "hoax" and lamenting NASCAR's decision to ban Confederate symbols at its events.
Trump did not provide any evidence of a hoax.
NASCAR has said its investigation did not determine who put the noose in Wallace's stall or how it got there after US investigators had separately concluded no federal crime was committed.
Wallace, the only Black driver competing in the series, drew an outpouring of support amid the incident from fellow drivers, who afterward pushed him and his car to the start of the June 22 race at the Talladega Superspeedway.
"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? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!" Trump tweeted on Monday.
Although NASCAR has said the noose was a garage door pull-down, the incident took on greater significance as the nation grapples with renewed tensions over racism ahead of the November 3 presidential election that has also rocked NASCAR and other sporting leagues.
Asked about Trump's tweet and why he is bringing it up now, White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said he was making "a broader point that this rush to judgment on the facts before the facts are out is not acceptable".
"The president's merely pointing out that we've got to let facts come out," she told Fox News in an interview. "There was no hate crime committed against Bubba Wallace, as determined by the FBI, as noted in the NASCAR statement."
Wallace has not backed away from the issue, underscoring that what was found in his garage was a noose - and whether it was directed at him or someone else, it was still a symbol of hate connected to lynching and America’s slave history.
NASCAR conducted its own investigation, releasing a photograph of the noose, but was unable to determine who did it or placed it in Wallace's stall.
Trump has made racial divisions a central theme of his re-election campaign as he seeks a second term. The Republican president has long courted NASCAR fans, even as he and the organisation are now at odds over the controversial Civil War-era Confederate flag.
His 2020 campaign is also sponsoring a NASCAR team.
Wallace, a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter who had long pushed for banning the flag, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Representatives for NASCAR could also not be immediately reached.
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