The first trailer for Hollywood director Spike Lee’s latest film features a group of Ku Klux Klan members spouting the slogan “America First.”
The film, BlackkKlansman, tells the story of a real-life African-American detective from Colorado Springs, Colorado, who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in 1979 when the Klan began looking to start a new chapter in the Centennial State.
The slogan-shouting scene featuring notorious KKK leader David Duke toasting “America First” occurs near the end of the trailer.
Lee’s broad comedy stars John David Washington, son of actor Denzel Washington, as Detective Ron Stallworth who is assigned the task of infiltrating the Black Panthers to ferret out their dangerous plans. But after feeling guilty for wearing a wire to entrap the black power group, the detective begins phoning a local KKK chapter to even the score a bit by entrapping the white power group, too. Adam Driver plays Stallworth’s police partner who becomes the “white face” of Stallworth’s phoned-in radical white power racist.
It appears that the film takes some license with the real account by Detective Stallworth, by shoehorning Louisiana-based Klan leader David Duke more prominently in the film. In reality, Stallworth only spoke to Duke over the phone a few times to corroborate his application for joining the Colorado chapter he was tasked with investigating.
As for the slogan “America First,” it has a very long history of use by U.S. politicians of all parties and appears to have been used as early as the 1890s. Noted politicians who used the phrase include Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Warren G. Harding, and William McKinley. Henry Cabot Lodge also used the phrase. The Klan also employed the term in the 1920s. Duke himself even used “America First” as a political campaign slogan, but not until 2016.
Even the liberal “fact checking” site, Snopes says that the slogan has a long pedigree in American politics and is not exclusively connected to white power groups.
In a recent press junket for the new film, Lee attacked President Donald Trump calling him “Agent Orange” and insisting he is on the “wrong side of history” for his remarks during the riots at Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.
BlackkKlansman hits theaters in August.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.