Videos circulating on social media include a clip of President Donald Trump saying in a mocking tone: “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Some versions are partly muted, and include a repetition of this clip a few times over. Some posts state Trump is mocking George Floyd given Floyd was heard saying “I can’t breathe” in the moments leading up to his death under police arrest. The video actually shows Trump mocking former New York City Mayor and former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg months prior to Floyd’s death.
The clip comes from a Trump rally in Colorado Springs on February 20, 2020, where he mocked the debate performances of Democratic presidential hopefuls (here) .
In video of the rally, Trump can be heard accusing candidates Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bloomberg of choking. At one point he says: “Bloomberg made a fool out of himself last night, he choked. He’s another one who’s going, ‘Ah, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! Don’t ask me the question, please!’” (See here and 17:00 www.c-span.org/video/?469438-1)
It is unclear if President Trump considered the recognizability of the phrase “I can’t breathe” and its strong association with racial justice movements since the case of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white police officer in 2014 (here , here) .
The slogan has been heard again at protests across the U.S. over the death of Floyd, another black man who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after being pinned by the neck under a white police officer’s knee (here).
This wasn’t the first time Trump used the words “I can’t breathe” to ridicule a political rival. In 2016 during a Rome, New York rally he said: “The last election should have been won except [Mitt] Romney choked like a dog, he choked. He went [makes choking gesture], ‘I can’t breathe!’” (here).
False. Trump used the words ‘I can’t breathe’ to mock political rivals Mike Bloomberg in 2020 and Mitt Romney in 2016.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .