In a shocking but not surprising move, Donald Trump’s administration turned one of its signature symbols of bigotry into a hands-on parlor game for young attendees at this year’s White House Halloween celebration.
Yahoo News was the first to report the story on Saturday. The annual spooky celebration, held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (EEOB) on Oct. 25, was attended by the families of White House staffers and others deemed VIPs by the administration. Each office was charged with creating their own signature display and activity.
The displays were supposed to be interactive and inspiring, and all were supposed to address the party’s theme: “When I grow up I want to be…”
Yet “outside the speechwriter’s office and next to the office of digital strategy,” one activity, neither inspiring nor on-theme, stood out from the others: Children were given “brick-colored paper cards and told to write their name with a marker and tape them to the wall.” Said wall was pre-adorned with an all-caps, familiarly xenophobic chant of Trump supporters: “Build the Wall.”
“Horrified. We were horrified,” said a person who was there and requested anonymity to avoid professional retaliation.
Social media posts from attendees indicate that Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance at the event, but a spokesperson was quick to insist that he spent the entire party in his second-floor office, where “we had kids build their own paper airplanes and fly them.” The spokesperson claimed ignorance of the brick activity.
The White House is yet to respond to Yahoo News’ request for comment.
— Colin Campbell (@colincampbell) November 2, 2019
Others have weighed in, however.
“We never did anything like this in the Obama administration.” recalled Nate Snyder, a former counterterrorism official in the Department of Homeland Security. “We hung up skeletons and ghosts,” he added.
Republicans were, predictably, unconcerned about the message the activity sent, but really upset about the encroachment on their right to laugh. “Everyone loses their minds over everything, and nothing can be funny anymore,” they whined, while a GOP congressional staffer asked Yahoo News “who gives a shit about … Halloween decorations?”
The last word, however, should come from someone who’s actually worked in border security. The best critique of this Trumpian “game” might just be the former director for enforcement and border security at the National Security Council, Ben Rorhbaugh, who’s long been an outspoken critic of Trump’s immigration policies.
“To the extent the wall is just a xenophobic symbol, this is obviously a gross thing to have children do,” Rohrbaugh told Yahoo News. “To the extent it’s a representation of an actual wall on the southwest border, the kids have made nearly as much progress as the president has since 2017.”