White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, not known for sticking closely to the truth, is again testing the limits of facts. This time, she is setting out to convince the world that Trump did, in fact, condemn white supremacy, when the nation has watched him repeatedly fail to do so over and over and over again. And it looks like McEnany is from the same school of thought as Trump when it comes to facts: if you just repeat the lie forcefully enough, your insistence will make it true!
At a press conference Thursday, McEnany was asked about Trump’s failure to condemn white supremacists during Tuesday night’s debates. “This has been answered yesterday by the president himself, the day before by the president himself on the debate stage,” said McEnany. The president was asked this. He said 'sure' three times yesterday.”
The reporter persisted and McEnany doubled down. “He was point blank asked, do you denounce white supremacy? And he said, I’ve always denounced any form of that,” she said. Except, that’s not quite what happened. Let’s recap.
During Tuesday evening’s debate, moderator Chris Wallace asked the president if he would be willing to condemn white supremacists and right-wing militia groups. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing,” Trump responded. He was then pushed to condemn the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group, specifically. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said, using language that set off major red flags for extremism experts. “But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing [problem].”
Immediately, viewers reacted en masse to the president's televised refusal to condemn white supremacy during the first debate, and outright galvanization of a white supremacist group. But on Wednesday, the press sought clarification from the president and he said, "I've always denounced — any form, any form, any form of any of that — you have to denounce," In each follow-up, Trump clearly failed to explicitly use the words “white supremacy.”
It was this comment that McEnany trotted out as proof that the president had been clear in his stance. “His record on this is unmistakable and it’s shameful that the media refuses to cover it,” she said.
But McEnany is actually right about this: His record on white supremacy is unmistakable and we have covered it. In 2017, after white nationalists drove a car through a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer, Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides.” After Kyle Rittenhouse shot and killed two people during a Black Lives Matter protest in Kenosha last month, Trump defended him by claiming he had been “violently attacked.” During his campaign in 2016, he refused to condemn Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke after Duke endorsed him.
So, like McEnany said, the president’s record on his feelings regarding white supremacists is “unmistakable.” It just doesn’t show what she wants us to think it does. Even the Proud Boys are celebrating Trump's response as an endorsement, so it's Kayleigh who is the last person in this country to believe Trump has condemned white supremacy in even the slightest way.