President Donald Trump’s administration has spent the past year painting Democrats as harbingers of socialism while attempting to position themselves as the savior of American democracy and freedom.
During the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February, where attendees wore badges that bore the tagline “America vs. Socialism,” several panels were dedicated to the topic of socialism and how it is exemplified by former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders. Once Sanders bowed out of the race in April 2020, Republicans shifted their attacks to Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, insisting that a Biden presidency would be every bit as radical as a Sanders presidency.
The disinformation campaign is particularly focused on the Latino community, which, for the first time this presidential election, is expected to be the largest bloc of voters of color with 32 million eligible voters. These votes are expected to play an important role in swing states such as Florida and Arizona. As a result, the Trump campaign has implemented several unique strategies aimed at dissuading Latinos from voting for Biden. This includes co-opting Latino mixed martial arts fighters for anti-socialism events and rallies.
Last month, Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump reelection campaign hosted a four-part “Fighters Against Socialism” bus tour, which made its way across the state of Florida with events in Tampa, Orlando, Coconut Creek, and Miami. The events featured Ultimate Fighting Championship star Jorge Masvidal, who spoke at each of the rallies. As the son of a Cuban immigrant whose father escaped Cuba on a tire, the UFC fighter was seen as the perfect poster boy to speak out against the “horrors” of communism and socialism.
“The Democrats just think they are entitled to the Latino vote. They think we just have to hand it over to them,” Masvidal said at one of the rallies, which drew a chorus of boos from the crowd. “That’s right. We sure as hell don’t. They’ve got to show us what they can do for us. We aren’t going to buy the same wolf tickets and false promises that destroyed great countries like Venezuela and Cuba. It’s not going to happen.”
One of the “Fighters Against Socialism” rallies took place at the American Top Team MMA gym, where dozens of fighters gathered to hear speeches from Masvidal and Trump Jr.. Several stopped to take pictures with the president’s son, while others pledged their support to Trump’s re-election campaign. During the final stop on the bus tour in Miami, Masvidal was joined by Cuban American businessman Maximo Alvarez as well as Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom pushed the same notion that the Democratic Party represents socialism.
Trump’s team did not stop there. The re-election campaign hosted several Latinos for Trump events in various states, including one by Vice President Mike Pence in Orlando, Florida, and others involving Latino UFC fighters. During one of those events in Phoenix, Arizona, former UFC champion Henry Cejudo spoke about his journey from Mexican immigrant to becoming the youngest American to win Olympic Gold in wrestling at age 21. Following his speech, Cejudo signed off with “I vote Trump … I love Trump.”
The most recent Latinos for Trump event, hosted by Trump’s other son, Eric Trump, featured UFC pioneer Tito Ortiz, who is also running for city council in his native Huntington Beach, California. Topics ranged from the stimulus package to voting.
Ortiz, a known conspiracy-monger and QAnon follower, has been a vocal Trump supporter dating back to the 2016 election and has enjoyed a warm relationship with the entire Trump family. ( Author note: Right Wing Watch covered Ortiz’s campaign, including his support for the QAnon movement, here.)
Following the event, Ortiz posted a photo of himself with Trump along with the caption: “Another step to victory! @EricTrump and I were here in #LasVegas to inspire and motivate Latino AmeriCan to be the best we can be for our families and our country. @LatinoswithTrump #Trump2020.”
Ortiz was also featured on PragerU—a YouTube channel founded by conservative radio host Dennis Prager that spreads disinformation and right-wing propaganda.
While it is difficult to measure the potential impact of such propaganda and misinformation, it is clear that the Trump campaign is willing to employ a wide range of tactics to sway critical Latino votes in their favor, even if it means partnering with cagefighters.