Former Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart is receiving backlash after some believed she flashed a ‘white power’ sign at President Trump’s Fourth of July event at Mount Rushmore.
Hart, 69, a former Miss South Dakota winner, made an appearance in her home state on Friday to host the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration as Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived on Air Force One.
But Hart’s speculated use of a white power hand gesture left some audience members shocked and social media users outraged.
‘Thank you, incredible audience. You have been here for hours!’ said Hart, joining her thumbs and index fingers while stretching out her remaining three fingers.
Several people are speculating that former Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart (pictured), used a ‘white power’ hand gesture while hosting President Trump’s Fourth of July celebration
The hand symbol, once harmless and typically meaning ‘OK’, was initially associated with ‘white power’ as an online joke, but has since been adopted by fringe racist figures.
‘By 2019, at least some white supremacists seem to have abandoned the ironic or satiric intent behind the original trolling campaign and used the symbol as a sincere expression of white supremacy’, according to The Anti-Defamation League.
A similar gesture is used in the so-called ‘circle game,’ in which the person making the gesture tries to trick someone into looking at it, and if successful gets to punch the onlooker in the arm.
However, the ambiguous nature of the gesture is part of the appeal to extremists.
How the ‘OK’ sign came to be associated with white supremacy
The historic hand sign for OK – touching the forefinger to thumb with other three fingers raised – is a formerly innocent symbol that has recently been co-opted by the far right.
The symbol’s co-option by racists began as a joke on far-right messaging site 4Chan – where users took an innocent gesture and pretended there was a hidden meaning behind it, hoping to trick left-leaning people into outrage.
But the joke escalated and soon the symbol was being widely used among far-right extremists, leading some people to conclude it has changed its meaning.
The ‘OK’ hand gesture (left) is now sometimes associated with white supremacy despite its usually innocent meaning. Brenton Tarrant, the Australian man arrested for killing 51 people at mosques in New Zealand earlier this year, is seen right making the gesture in court in March
Conservative Viner Pizza Party Ben and the alt-right’s former pin-up boy Milo Yiannopoulos began making the gesture at various campaign events for Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2016 election.
White supremacist Richard Spencer also flashed the sign on election night in 2016 in front of a Trump Hotel with the caption ‘Tonight’s the night.’
The symbol has continued to be used, including allegedly by White House intern Jack Breuer in 2017, photographed making the OK sign in his class photo, who claimed he was copying the president’s gesture of touching his index finger and thumb while speaking.
The popular emoji has been registered as a hate symbol by the US-based Anti-Defamation League, but the group warned it is still ‘overwhelmingly’ used to show approval or that someone is OK.
Others use it as part of a ‘circle game’ created on US TV show Malcolm in the Middle, which involves someone making the gesture and holding it below their waist. If someone else looks at it, they get a punch in the arm.
America has seen mounting calls to eradicate race supremacy and injustice as scores of Black Lives Matter protests have blanketed the country for several weeks.
The movement has gained massive traction on social media, where several people used the platform to call out Hart for the alleged hand gesture.
‘I’d love to say that MaryHart is now canceled for hosting Trumps corona-spreading hate rally, while giving the double “white power” symbol,’ wrote TV Personality Scott Nevins.
‘But really, she hasn’t worked in 10 years and you have to be relevant in order to be canceled. #girlbye.’
Several social media users called out Mary Hart for the alleged hand gesture on Twitter after she hosted the Mount Rushmore event
Willie Garson: ‘The double WHITE POWER sign was neither a mistake or a coincidence. She knew EXACTLY what she was doing’
Actress Jane Lynch simply shared a photo of Mary Hart making a hand gesture to bring attention to the alleged meaning
Actor Willie Garson shared similar sentiments and urged Twitter users to ‘Make sure Mary Hart is aware that we know what she did last night.
‘The double WHITE POWER sign was neither a mistake or a coincidence. She knew EXACTLY what she was doing,’ he added.
Jane Lynch, a four-time Emmy Award winning actress, simply shared a still photo of Hart making the hand gesture.
Journalist James Kosure wrote: ‘Mary Hart just randomly and deliberately throwing up two white power symbols as she introduces Donald Trump.’
Kosur: ‘Mary Hart just randomly and deliberately throwing up two white power symbols as she introduces Donald Trump’
The controversial hand gesture was adopted into white supremacist circles after it was used as a hoax online
Twitter user Rob Gill suggested Hart ‘outted herself as a Nazi by flashing the white power sign.’
Scores of other social media users were surprised to learn that Hart appeared to be a conservative, but the connection to White House is familial.
Politico reports that Hart’s son, Alec ‘AJ’ Sugarman, secured a role as a special assistant to the president of legislative affairs at the White House last May.
He was previously a legislative analyst for the Office of Management and Budget.
Pictured: Mary Hart (right, red dress), pictured with her son AJ Sugarman (right), appearing during her last hosting of Entertainment Tonight in 2011
Last night, Trump gave a fiery address claiming that the ‘left-wing cultural revolution’ aimed to overthrow the American Revolution in a repeated rail against the Black Lives Matter movement.
On the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, Trump’s message was about us versus them, calling those who didn’t support him ‘bad, evil people.’
He tossed red meat to a packed crowd of supporters – a majority of whom were not wearing masks nor practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – telling them ‘we will never abolish the police’ and ‘we stand tall we stand proud and we only kneel to almighty God.’
President Trump (pictured) gave a fiery address to some 7,500 attendees that railed against the Black Lives Matter movement and promised a ‘national garden of American heroes’
Pictured: Activists and members of different tribes from the region block the road to Mount Rushmore National Monument with vans as they protest and confront military personnel with a Lakota flag in Keystone, South Dakota
And announced that he was creating a new monument, called the ‘national garden of American heroes,’ which he described as a ‘vast outdoor park that will features the statues of the greatest Americans who ever lived.’
Trump also vowed to deploy federal law enforcement ‘to protect our monuments, arrest the rioters and prosecute offenders to the furthest extent of the law.’
He promised Mount Rushmore, which loomed above him – and would serve as a backdrop for fireworks after his speech – would never be touched.
It appeared to be a reference a number of Confederate monuments and statues being torn down by anti-racism demonstrators.
The divisive rhetoric comes after the death of several Black Americans by law enforcement, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain, Atatiana Jefferson and more.
Pictured: Donald Trump, accompanied by first lady Melania Trump, stands during the national anthem at Mount Rushmore National Memorial