President Donald Trump has repeatedly denounced white supremacists and hate groups, including during Tuesday night’s debate and during a gaggle the next day, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Oct. 1.
McEnany was pressed by two reporters during a White House briefing on whether Trump would definitively denounce white supremacy and groups that espouse it, to which she said he has.
“This has been answered, yesterday by the president himself, the day before by the president himself, on the debate stage, the president was asked this, he said, ‘sure,’ three times. Yesterday he was point-blank asked, do you denounce white supremacy and he said I’ve always denounced any form of that,” McEnany told Fox News’ John Roberts.
“I can go back and read for you, in August 2019, ‘in one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy.’ In August of 2017, ‘racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups.’ I have an entire list of these quotes that I can go through with you.
Roberts then asked for a new quote about the president denouncing white supremacy.
“I just did. The president has denounced this,” she said.
Following more back-and-forth between McEnany and Roberts, the briefing moved to other topics, before CNN’s Kaitlin Collins brought it back up, wondering why the rightwing Proud Boys were “celebrating what the president said on the debate stage.”
“I don’t speak for that group so I’m not sure why you’re asking me why they’re saying a certain thing,” McEnany said, soon adding that the president did denounce the Proud Boys specifically.
Trump on the debate stage told the Proud Boys, a mixed race group that some reporters claim hold white supremacist views, to “stand back and stand by.”
Asked what he meant on Wednesday, Trump told reporters, “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you’ll have to give me a definition, because I really don’t know who they are. I can only say they have to stand down, let law enforcement do their work.”
Asked if he denounces white supremacists, Trump added, “I’ve always denounced any form—any form of any of that, you have to denounce.
“The president specifically, verbatim, was asked yesterday, ‘white supremacy, do you denounce them?’ To which he responded, ‘I have always denounced any form of that.’ Those are the facts,” McEnany told Collins.
The Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, a racial minority, told a local broadcaster on Wednesday: “I denounce white supremacy. I denounce anti-Semitism. I denounce racism. I denounce fascism. I denounce communism and any other -ism that is prejudice towards people because of their race, religion, culture, tone of skin.”
The drama in the White House briefing room continued later in the day, with people on Twitter sending Roberts critical messages and the reporter going on his network to complain.
Roberts wondered why Trump didn’t say, “‘I don’t know who they are. Can you give me more information about them,’ and then make a decision about it? So this all remains puzzling,” he said.
“For all of you on Twitter who are hammering me for asking that question, I don’t care,” he added, clearly exasperated. “Because it’s a question that needs to be asked, and clearly the president’s Republican colleagues a mile away from here are looking for an answer for it too. So stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media. I’m tired of it.”
McEnany tagged Roberts on Twitter, referring him to a post by his wife, Kyra Phillips, who is also a White House reporter.
Phillips told her followers on Wednesday: “Just now: @realDonaldTrump tells me he DENOUNCES white supremacists.”