Former president Donald Trump on Friday revived a two-week-old controversy over his description of Hezbollah terrorist attackers as “very smart,” posting a column on social media that sought to defend his characterization of the group.
The column Trump shared in full, written by the conservative commentator Jeffrey Lord, argued that the former president was justified in using the broadly condemned characterization — and Lord also called Trump “smart” as well.
President Biden’s reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee seized on Trump’s latest social media post, with the DNC claiming on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Trump was “once again praising a terrorist organization.”
In a speech Oct. 11, Trump complimented the intelligence of Hezbollah, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States. The Iranian-aligned group, based in Lebanon, has recently stepped up attacks on Israel.
“You know, Hezbollah is very smart,” Trump said. “They’re all very smart.”
At the time, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung defended the former president’s comments, saying Trump “was clearly pointing out how incompetent Biden and his administration were by telegraphing to the terrorists an area that is susceptible to an attack” and added that “smart does not equal good.”
Lord echoed that line of thinking in the piece that Trump highlighted on Truth Social, his social media platform.
“There is no connection whatsoever — zero — between the definition of ‘smart’ and the concepts of good, bad, or indifferent, much less any tie between ‘smart’ and ‘evil,’” Lord wrote. “What is particularly astonishing here with [these criticisms of Trump] is, as mentioned, the utter lack of knowledge about the truly evil figures in world history — and, specifically, that these people were hardly dumb.”
Lord, a former Reagan White House official and political commentator, was an early supporter of Trump’s during the 2016 presidential election cycle. He was the first explicitly pro-Trump commentator hired at CNN and was terminated from his role in 2017 over a tweet of a verbal Nazi salute. Lord has said the comment was misunderstood and that it was meant to mock fascism.
In his column, published in the American Spectator this month, Lord also argued that Trump’s acknowledgment that Hezbollah or other divisive world leaders are smart “is itself smart.”
“Trump is no fool who is taken in by ignoring the reality of who these people really are,” he added.
Trump’s comments this month calling Hezbollah smart drew condemnations both domestically and abroad, including among his rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. But Trump, so far, has maintained a large lead in the polls over his Republican competition.
Friday’s social media post comes days after Florida state Rep. Randy Fine (R), a former ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), announced that he was switching his support in the 2024 race to Trump.
Fine, the only Jewish Republican lawmaker in Florida’s state legislature, accused DeSantis of not doing enough to combat antisemitism in the state amid the Israel-Gaza war.
Isaac Arnsdorf contributed to this report.