The daughters of the man who wrote “The Snake” ― a 1960s soul song that President Donald Trump has appropriated for his own anti-immigrant agenda ― blasted Trump on Sunday for twisting their father’s lyrics into a message of hate.
The president is using the song, written by the late Oscar Brown Jr., to “serve his own campaign and climate of intolerance and hate — which is the opposite” of what the songwriter intended, one of his daughters, Maggie Brown, said Sunday on MSNBC.
Trump is “perversely using ‘The Snake’ to demonize immigrants,” said Maggie’s sister, Africa Brown. “My father never stood against immigrants. He was always standing up for people, and not about separatism.”
Oscar Brown Jr., a soul singer, radical black activist and onetime member of the Communist Party from Chicago, wrote the song in 1963. The song is based on an Aesop fable, “The Farmer and the Viper,” that warns that kindness can be betrayed.
During numerous public appearances, Trump has pulled out the lyrics to “The Snake” after attacking immigrants, then read them like a gruesome instructive bedtime story. The lyrics concern a woman who takes a snake into her home, saving it from freezing outside. The snake then fatally bites her.
Trump read the lyrics to “The Snake” at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday as a way to smear immigrants, likening them to reptiles who have been welcomed into America only to fatally attack their hosts.
The president delivered the last line ― “You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in” ― with sinister glee, as he’d done several times on the campaign trail.
“It’s extremely ironic,” Maggie Brown said. Her father, she said, believed that “with the grace of God, you need never fire a shot. He was against guns in the schools… or any of this stuff Donald Trump stands for.” She added: “That is super insulting.”
Her sister said Trump’s use of their father’s work is “an insult to the deep respect for humanity” that Oscar Brown Jr. believed in.
Both women accused Trump of “stealing” their father’s song, and demanded that he stop appropriating it.
“We don’t want him using these lyrics,” Maggie Brown told the Chicago Tribune in 2016 during the presidential campaign. “If Dad were alive, he would’ve ripped [Trump] with a great poem in rebuttal.”