The latest incarnation in President Trump's years-long antagonism with the media and Hollywood has raised more than a few eyebrows, after organizers at a pro-Trump event edited him into a particularly violent scene from 2014's Kingsman: The Secret Service. The scene depicts Trump in place of a character played by Colin Firth, as he slaughters a church filled with dozens of enemies - whose own faces have been replaced with political and media critics of the President.
In the original Kingsman, Harry Hart (Firth's character) is inside the church, which is located in the Deep South, in order to follow a lead on a hate group. When the movie's villain Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson) uses mind control to turn the churchgoers against Hart, he's forced to shoot his way through at least three dozen people. The scene, like much of the violence in the Kingsman franchise, is mildly graphic, but that violence takes on an undeniably different meaning in this edited version.
The edited Kingsman scene presents President Trump shooting the superimposed images of figures like Kathy Griffin and former President Barack Obama, as well as logos representing various media companies such as CNN. It was made by and presented at the American Priority Conference, an explicitly pro-Trump alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was held at Trump Doral Miami, a hotel owned by the President. Attendees included his son Donald Trump, Jr. and former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but not Trump himself. The White House has since stated that the President "strongly condemns the video" based on what's been relayed to him.
Responding to their depiction in the macabre Kingsman edit, CNN called the scene "disturbing" and denounced it as "not the first time that supporters of the President have promoted violence against the media in a video they apparently find entertaining," though they added that "it is by far and away the worst." Griffin, likewise, took to Twitter, seemingly concerned for her safety. “I’m depicted as being murdered by The President of the United States in this video. [...] No, this video isn’t a joke to his followers. And it will not be taken as such.” The organizers of American Priority have likewise claimed not to "support political violence" and that the video, which was shown among a number of other pro-Trump memes, was not vetted or sanctioned by them.
This incident closely follows a similar controversy, in which conservative commentator Ben Shapiro implied his willingness to "pick up a gun" over Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke's call for LGBTQ+ education in public schools. In fairness, the President's general hostility towards prominent media outlets and public figures is mutual (as evidenced by recent anti-Trump comments made by acting icon Robert De Niro), though it's rarely devolved into outright depictions of violence. Moreover, memes like the one shown at the Trump conference are made and shared all across social media all the time, and those were neither created or endorsed by the President or his staff. Even so, it could be read as ironic that the original "bad guys" in the unedited scene, which has nearly 7.5 million views on YouTube, were extremist Christians in the Deep South - a segment of the population which statistically tends to supports the President.
- The King's Man (2020) release date: Sep 18, 2020