WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump was critical of NASCAR on Monday and driver Bubba Wallace via Twitter.
Trump wrote, “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?”
Federal authorities ruled last month a noose had been hanging since October, before the garage was ever assigned to Wallace, and was not a hate crime. It was discovered and reported in June. Both NASCAR and the FBI have referred to the rope as a noose.
Wallace responded on Twitter with a note to “the next generation and little ones following my foot steps” in which he urged people to use their platform and not be detracted by “hate being thrown at you.”
“Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate,” Wallace tweeted. “Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS .. Love wins.”
Andrew Murstein, co-owner of the Richard Petty Motorsports team that fields Wallace’s car, called Trump’s tweet “a late, misinformed, and factually incorrect statement.” He also said it was unwarranted and cited the photo NASCAR released of the noose.
“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Murstein said in a statement. “Bubba has reacted in a truthful, professional, level headed manner. The NASCAR community and those in the know all stand by him.”
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president’s decision to wade into the Wallace case, saying in an interview on Fox News that, “The president’s merely pointing out that we’ve got to let facts come out before we jump to judgment.”
She also linked the incident to a rush to judgment, likening it to actor Jussie Smollett’s claims he was a victim of a hate crime.
During a White House briefing later Monday, McEnany continued to criticize the press, calling Trump’s tweet a “complete indictment of the media’s rush to judgement.”
McEnany declined to explain why the president thought Wallace should apologize. Wallace was not the one who found the noose or reported it.
NASCAR also recently banned displays of the Confederate flag at its events.
The president said via Twitter Trump also wrote, “That [the Bubba Wallace situation] & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!”
McEnany refused to say whether or not the president supports NASCAR’s ban on the Confederate flag.
NASCAR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Two NASCAR drivers came to Wallace’s defense Monday on social media.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, currently sidelined with the coronavirus, posted an image of Wallace’s No. 43that had been used by drivers in an earlier #IStandWithBubba campaign.
Tyler Reddick, a rookie who drives for Richard Childress, tweeted but later deleted a reply to Trump that read: “We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support.”
NASCAR’s ratings are up according to Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president at Fox Sports. He tweeted right after Trump that Fox viewership is up 8 percent since the sport returned from the pandemic hiatus on May 17.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)