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Not since Good Morning America referred to Kermit the Frog as a #TeaLizard has an fictitious frog caused such confusion and controversy.
Pepe’s creator, Matt Furie, disavowed the connection, saying it was just a bump in the life of a meme that’s constantly changing: “[I]t’s not the first time Pepe has been reclaimed for evil,” he said in an interview withthe Daily Dot, “and no one will care about it come November. I predict that his sly, lovable, and charming status will be intact as early as next week.”
But it hasn’t stopped the alt-right from using the innocent frog for their own purposes.
Most notably, after Hillary Clinton said that half of Donald Trump’s supporters were “a basket of deplorables,” people started sharing a Photoshopped version of a poster advertising The Expendables featuring Trump standing next to his Pepe clone. In fact it was shared on Instagram by none other than Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
A friend sent me this. Apparently I made the cut as one of the Deplorables😂😂😂 All kidding aside I am honored to be grouped with the hard working men and women of this great nation that have supported @realdonaldtrump and know that he can fix the mess created by politicians in Washington. He’s fighting for you and won’t ever quit. Thanks for your trust! #trump2016 #maga #makeamericagreatagain #basketofdeplorables
A photo posted by Donald Trump Jr. (@donaldjtrumpjr) on
This lead to Trump Jr. being questioned on Good Morning America by George Stephanopoulos, who referred to the frog as a “well-known symbol of the white supremacist movement.”
“I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog,” answered Trump Jr, “I mean, bet you 90 percent of your viewers have never heard of Pepe the Frog… I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny. I had no idea there was any connotation there.”
And while he might have a point in saying that not everyone knows who Pepe is, it seems odd that the son of the Republican nominee for president, a man who’s been heavily campaigning for said nominee, wouldn’t know who Pepe is, especially when you consider that rival Hillary Clinton has a whole page devoted to explaining the meme.
Add to that the fact that his father himself has used the meme, and it starts to seem like Donald Jr., is either lying or surprisingly underinformed for someone who’s going on national television to campaign.
David Britton is a writer and comedian based in Rhinebeck, New York who focuses on internet culture, memes, and viral news stories. He also writes for the Hard Times and is the creator of StoriesAboutWizards.com.