President Donald Trump called out driver Bubba Wallace on Monday, alleging that a noose found last month in his garage at Talladega Superspeedway was a hoax and questioning NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag from the sport.
Trump tweeted: "Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!"
Wallace responded with a statement Monday afternoon in which he wrote: "Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it's HATE from the POTUS."
Speaking with guest host Anthony Anderson on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Tuesday, Wallace was asked about Trump's tweet.
"So to be late to the party is one thing, and to be wrong on the factual information is another," Wallace said, referring to the fact that the incident happened two weeks earlier. "But all in all, he did get one thing right in his tweet, though: the great officials that continue to stand behind me -- NASCAR drivers and officials that continue to stand behind me through it all -- he got that part right. We have a great sport that I'm proud to be a part of."
Tyler Reddick, who drives the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, responded to Trump's tweet Monday, saying that he and other drivers don't need an apology.
"We don't need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support," he tweeted before later deleting the tweet.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president's decision to wade into the Wallace case, saying in an interview on Fox News that "the president's merely pointing out that we've got to let facts come out before we jump to judgment."
In a statement, NASCAR said it is "proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans."
Andrew Murstein, co-owner of the Richard Petty Motorsports team that fields Wallace's car, called Trump's tweet "a late, misinformed, and factually incorrect statement.'' He also said it was unwarranted and cited the photo NASCAR released of the noose.
"A picture is worth a thousand words,'' Murstein said in a statement. "Bubba has reacted in a truthful, professional, level headed manner. The NASCAR community and those in the know all stand by him.''
Wallace led the push for NASCAR to ban Confederate symbols at tracks. Two weeks later, the noose was found at the first race some fans were allowed to attend since the shutdown. On the same day, a plane pulling a banner of the Confederate flag that read, "Defund NASCAR'' was circling the track, and protesters outside the speedway displayed their flags.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson, currently sidelined because of the coronavirus, also came to Wallace's defense Monday, posting an image of Wallace's No. 43 that had been used by drivers in an earlier #IStandWithBubba campaign.
Wallace, NASCAR's only Black full-time driver, was joined by all 39 other drivers and their crews on June 22 in a march down pit road as they pushed his No. 43 to the front of the line in the moments before the race.
An FBI investigation determined that Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime and that the pull rope fashioned like a noose had been on a garage door at the speedway since as early as October, NASCAR announced June 23.
A day later, Wallace said he was thankful that the noose wasn't intended for him but said he doesn't think the ensuing investigation was an overreaction.
NASCAR ratings on Fox have increased during the sport's return from a shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports' executive vice president and head of strategy and analytics.
"NASCAR viewership on Fox networks is up +8% since returning from its pandemic hiatus on May 17," he tweeted.
In addition, NASCAR said ratings on NBC for Sunday's race at Indianapolis were up 46% from last year's event there.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview with Fox News Radio that Wallace's reaction to the noose "made perfect sense," and Graham commended NASCAR for supporting Wallace.
"You saw the best in NASCAR. When there was a chance that it was a threat against Bubba Wallace, they all rallied to Bubba's side. So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax," Graham said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.