'Are You Kidding Me?': PolitiFact's Rating About the Thin Blue Line Flag Raises Eyebrows

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Posted: Oct 31, 2020 6:00 AM
'Are You Kidding Me?': PolitiFact's Rating About the Thin Blue Line Flag Raises Eyebrows

Source: AP Photo/Morry Gash

The Thin Blue Line flag became the focus of a PolitiFact article this week after a Dartmouth College professor referred to it as an "anti-Black Lives Matter flag."

"Tonight in Wisconsin. First the anti-Black Lives Matter flag flew outside his rallies, then beside the American flag. Now it has replaced the American flag. That’s significant,” said professor Jeff Sharlet of the flag that was featured at President Trump's rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin last weekend.

A screenshot of that quote went viral across the social media platform and was flagged by Facebook “as a part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News feed,” according to the fact checking website. 

Here’s their ruling:

A Facebook post claims an "anti-Black Lives Matter" flag replaced the American flag behind Trump during a Waukesha campaign rally.

To be sure, the flag itself violates the U.S. Flag Code, and should not be considered a legitimate U.S. flag by those standards. 

In terms of the Facebook claim, The image and description -- that the flag has taken on greater prominence at the Trump rallies in Wisconsin -- is on target. And the Thin Blue Line flag has become a prominent part of the pro-police Blue Lives Matter movement -- which arose to counter the Blak Lives Matter movement.

That said, while it is possible to support both, Trump has made clear he opposes the Black Lives Matter protests -- and made that opposition, and a strong law-and-order message, a prominent part of his re-election campaign. So, those attending the rally or seeing the images could easily see the flag as an "anti Black Lives Matter flag."

We rate the claim Mostly True. (PolitiFact)

According to “Thin Blue Line USA,” the company that developed the flag in 2014, it was done to show “compassion and support for our nation’s police officers.”

In 2020, the company’s president, Andrew Jacob, described it as “a flag to show support for law enforcement—no politics involved.”

Jacob said the flag was not a direct reaction to the first Black Lives Matter protests—an idea suggested by a previous origin story in Harper’s—but he allows he may have first seen the thin blue line image after those protests spurred the circulation of pro-police imagery online. “That’s maybe why it came to my eyes,” he said.

As Jacob built the company, a “Blue Lives Matter” movement was growing in the wake of news stories of multiple officers shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Brooklyn, New York; and Dallas. (The Marshall Project)

“Whatever the intended meaning of the flag, it has come to carry different connotations to different people,” PolitiFact said.

Conservatives on Twitter took issue with the website's rating.