The sinister past of an ardent Trump supporter who has been glimpsed behind the president on several occasions – including at his Phoenix rally on Tuesday – has begun to emerge.
Michael Symonette – also known as Maurice Woodside, Mikael Israel and ‘Michael the Black Man’ – is a mainstay at the president’s rallies, often seen waving signs for his website ‘Blacks for Trump 2020’ and ‘Gods2.com’.
But Symonette is no ordinary Trump supporter: He’s also a former cult member who was once charged with conspiring to kill two people and blinding a third.
Fan: Michael Symonette (seen holding ‘Blacks for Trump’ sign at Phoenix rally on Tuesday) has made several appearances supporting Trump – but he has a shady past
Arrested: Symonette first appeared supporting Trump in October (Trump seen left on October 12 with placard), but his history includes a string of arrests (2010 mugshot seen right)
Symonette and his Blacks for Trump posse first emerged at rallies in October, just before Trump’s win.
Since then, he has been seen at a series of Trump events, frequently in the prime spot behind the president, where he can advertise his websites on placards and T-shirts.
Trump even held up a Blacks for Trump placard for the cameras in October last year.
But in the early 1990s, Symonette was living a very different – and less high profile – life, as a member of the Nation of Yahweh, a cult run by Hulon Mitchell, Jr., also known as Yahweh ben Yahweh.
Mitchell set up his cult in Liberty City, Florida, in 1979, claiming that the prophets of the bible were black and that whites and Jews were their oppressors.
In 1991, Mitchell was hauled in by cops in connection with 14 killings – including a beheading in the Everglades – two attempted killings, extortion and arson.
Symonette and 15 other cult members were brought in as well, and charged of conspiracy to murder two people, Miami New Times reported.
Cops said that Mitchell had persuaded his followers to murder white people as an initiation, as well as slaughtering followers who disagreed with him.
In court Symonette’s brother, who was also in the cult, testified that Symonette had beaten up a man who was later murdered, and had stabbed another man in the eye with a sharp stick.
Conspiracy: Symonette (seen behind Trump in October last year) was found not guilty of conspiring to murder two men in 1991, when he was part of the Nation of Yahweh cult
Cult: Symonette followed Yahweh ben Yahweh (pictured), aka Hulon Mitchell, Jr. Mitchell was accused of involvement in 14 killings related to the cult he ran, and sentenced to 20 years
Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy to murder and sent to prison for 20 years. He was released on parole in 2001 and died of prostate cancer in 2007.
But Symonette and six others were acquitted of the conspiracy charges and walked free.
Since then, Symonette has appeared on TV and in person as an anti-gay, pro-Republican preacher, supporting Rick Santorum at rallies.
In one video, Symonette says: ‘The Democrats, they’re the worst thing that ever happened to the black man, they’re the slave masters.’
He has also charged with grand theft auto, carrying a weapon onto a plane and threatening a cop, although he’s never been convicted.
And he’s also established a string of websites – including Gods2.com and BlacksForTrump2020.com, both of which link to his main site, Honestfact.com.
That site is a near incomprehensible collection of conspiracy theories, including a page in which he claims the KKK was started not by whites, but by Cherokees.
‘Black& White Americans are really Hebrews,(Hos.4:6)&were in America before Cherokees,’ the page claims.
‘Solve America’s Debt. make all Indians pay Taxes! Trick: we’re all mixed with them, we pay taxes they don’t & they Hate us.’
In an interview with Chicago’s WLS radio on Wednesday, he said: ‘Bill Clinton, he’s a Cherokee Indian, you probably already know that.
‘Even John McCain himself is a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. The men that are blocking President Trump that are in the Republican and Democrat Senate and Congress are all Cherokees and they’re in unity.’
Reinvented: Symonette (seen cheering Trump in Miami in June) reinvented himself as an anti-gay preacher, and supported Rick Santorum. Now he runs a bizarre conspiracy website
Conspiracy: Symonette’s sites all lead back to his main page in which he claims Trump is fighting a conspiracy run by Cherokees (who include Bill Clinton and John McCain)
He’s also made bizarre claims that Oprah Winfrey is the devil and Barack Obama is ‘The Beast,’ according to the Washington Post.
In an interview with the Miami New Times last October, Symonette claimed that he now loves white people, and that despite police claims about Mitchell’s teachings, the Nation of Yahweh led him to that conclusion.
‘Yahweh is the one who told me white men are your brothers,’ he said. ‘Before that, I hated all white people. I hated their guts and wanted them dead.’
He also said that he hates Hillary Clinton because her ‘last name is Rodham, and their family members are Rothchilds, who enslaved 13,000 slaves as collateral.
‘She’s also on camera kissing the head of the Ku Klux Klan and saying, “That’s my mentor.” That’s all on my website.’
He also claims that Clinton runs the KKK, and that she is plotting with ISIS to kill ‘all black and white women with MS-13’
Now he’s focused on supporting Trump – something he’s able to do from his prime position behind the president at a number of rallies.
But he said that his appearance at Phoenix on Tuesday was not down to Trump’s team.
‘I wasn’t placed [behind Trump], I put myself there,’ he told WLS.
‘I’m glad I was there so I could get the message out, tell people what’s going on with Democrats and the Cherokee Indians that are absolutely destroying the black man and the white man of America.’
Followers: Symonette has his own followers now; pictured here are two ‘Blacks for Trump’ demonstrators outside Trump Tower the day after Trump won the election