Opinion

Lynette Hardaway, of Pro-Trump Duo Diamond and Silk, Dies at 51

Lynette Hardaway, who was better known as Diamond from Diamond and Silk, the outspoken sisters who became prominent conservative media personalities with their unwavering support of former President Donald J. Trump, has died. She was 51.

Her death was announced on Monday on the Diamond and Silk Facebook page and by Mr. Trump on his social media platform, Truth Social. No cause was given. Mr. Trump wrote that Ms. Hardaway had died in North Carolina and that it was “really bad news for Republicans and frankly, ALL Americans.”

Ms. Hardaway and her older sister, Rochelle Richardson, known as Silk, rose to fame during the 2016 presidential campaign by embracing their role as prominent Black supporters of Mr. Trump, who was deeply unpopular with Black voters. (94 percent of Black women who voted in 2016 chose Hillary Clinton, according to exit poll data collected by The New York Times.)

The sisters appeared at Trump rallies and on conservative news networks and recorded online videos of themselves sitting side-by-side at home, sometimes sipping from wine glasses as they delivered rapid-fire pro-Trump commentary.

The sisters described themselves as former Democrats who had become Republicans in 2015 to support Mr. Trump, and they encouraged Democrats to “ditch and switch.” Ms. Hardaway called herself the “mouth of the South,” willing to offend people with her commentary, and described Silk, her sister, as “Inspector Gadget,” who would investigate issues.

Casting themselves as “truth tellers,” and as Mr. Trump’s “most loyal supporters,” the pair attacked the Democratic Party as “a plantation” and said that Ms. Clinton was not their “slave master.” In one appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Diamond told viewers: “Trump is not a racist, he is a realist. And the only color he sees is green and he wants you to have some of it.”

Mr. Trump warmly embraced the sisters, elevating their profile in the growing media orbit around him.

“How great are they?” Mr. Trump said in December 2015, when he invited the sisters onstage at a rally in Raleigh, N.C., and draped an arm around Ms. Hardaway, as the crowd cheered. “I turn on my television one night and I see these two on television. I say, ‘They are the greatest, what is it?’ They became an internet sensation. I hope you’ve monetized it a little bit.”

The sisters said they had turned their fame into a business. They sold Trump merchandise on their website and embarked on a book tour that offered fans the chance to see them for $50 a ticket (or $150 for a V.I.P. ticket). In November 2016, the Trump campaign paid the sisters $1,274.94 for “field consulting,” according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The sisters drew intense criticism as their prominence rose.

Bree Newsome, an artist and activist, described the sisters in 2018 as “a modern-day minstrel show” aimed at “white conservatives who want to believe Trump can’t be racist or they themselves can’t be racist because there are these two Black women named Diamond and Silk who are constantly rooting for Trump.”

The sisters roundly rejected such attacks.

“While some of our supporters may be surprised to see two American (Black) women voicing their opinions about these issues, it’s not a racial or cultural thing,” they wrote on their website. “It’s about doing the right thing when it comes to ‘We the American People!’ We are just two Black chicks, who’s down with politics. We are not robotic talking heads; we are truth-tellers!”

Ms. Hardaway was born on Nov. 25, 1971 and grew up in Detroit, the second oldest of six children (Ms. Richardson was the oldest), according to their book, “Uprising: Who the Hell Said You Can’t Ditch and Switch? The Awakening of Diamond and Silk.” Their father worked in a bread factory when they were young and their mother was a homemaker who later became a pastor in North Carolina.

A complete list of Ms. Hardaway’s survivors was not immediately available.

In 2018, Republicans summoned the sisters to testify before the House Judiciary Committee after they received a note from Facebook that said the company had deemed their page to be “unsafe to the community.” The sisters said the note, along with a decline in traffic to their page, was proof that Facebook had an anticonservative bias.

“Facebook censored us for six months,” Ms. Hardaway said at the hearing, during which she frequently sparred with Democratic members of Congress and found support among Republican members.

Facebook said the sisters’ page had been flagged as a result of a communication problem, not partisan bias. Any dip in traffic, the company said, was caused by new policies that showed users more posts from friends and fewer from public pages.

In April 2020, The Daily Beast reported that Fox News, which had paid Diamond and Silk to provide weekly videos for Fox Nation, had cut ties with the sisters after they promoted conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus.

The right-wing news channel Newsmax ran a weekly show of their podcast, but the show ended more than a year ago, according to a Newsmax spokesman.

Explaining their motivation for supporting Mr. Trump, the sisters maintained that they were independent thinkers.

“When we started stumping for Trump, we needed no one’s permission or validation,” the sisters wrote in their book. “We couldn’t have cared less about what anybody thought, including family. We weren’t looking to score brownie points; we were looking to shed light on the naked, nasty truth!”

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.

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