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Donald Trump and “The Snake” | “Zero Tolerance” | FRONTLINE

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Published on Oct 17, 2019

Donald Trump uses song lyrics to compare immigrants to killer snakes in the stunning opening sequence of the new FRONTLINE documentary “Zero Tolerance.”

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When he took the stage at campaign rallies across the country, presidential hopeful Donald Trump often had a piece of paper in his pocket, ready to go if the moment seemed right.

On it was printed something unlikely: the lyrics to a song written in the 1960s by civil rights activist Oscar Brown Jr. Based on a fable, “The Snake” tells the story of a kind woman who takes an injured snake into her home to nurse him back to health — only to be shocked when she is fatally bitten.

In Trump’s hands, however, Brown’s words were imbued with a new and specific meaning.

As the opening scene from the upcoming FRONTLINE documentary “Zero Tolerance” explores, Trump recast the lyrics as an anti-immigration allegory — equating people seeking to enter America with killer snakes who would inevitably cause harm to those who welcomed them.

The film’s opening moments depict Trump’s use of “The Snake” in such a way that it’s never before been seen — juxtaposing the then-candidate’s reading with stark images of men, women and children struggling to reach the U.S.-Mexico border.

For the full story on how the president turned anti-immigration fervor into a powerful political weapon, tune in or stream the full “Zero Tolerance” documentary starting October 22, 2019: https://to.pbs.org/2MHnh8o

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Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, The John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.

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