During the presidential debate on Tuesday, President Donald Trump was asked by moderator Chris Wallace to disavow white supremacy — because apparently, some in the media still labor under the misapprehension the White House thinks it needs the votes of the wavering carbon-wasters who listen to David Duke’s podcast to put them over the top in Ohio.
“Sure. I’m willing to do that,” Trump told Wallace, countering, “Almost [all the violence] I see is from the left wing, not from the right wing.”
This — along with the fact the president didn’t seem to know who the fringe-right street-fighting fraternal organization Proud Boys were — fueled speculation that even though Trump disavowed white supremacy, he was actually a white supremacist.
While not outright calling Trump a white supremacist, Fox News’ John Roberts threw gas on the fire of this speculation, claiming that his query asking for a “definitive” repudiation of white supremacy was “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.”
If he wanted an answer, he should have asked Harrison Fields.
Fields, who is black, is an assistant press secretary in the Trump White House. On Thursday, as Roberts engaged in a testy exchange with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany (we’ll get to that later), Fields decided to add his perspective on the matter.
“As a Black man serving in the Trump White House, I have seen firsthand this Administration’s unwavering support of communities of color,” Fields tweeted.
He added: “@realDonaldTrump has not only denounced ALL forms of hatred and bigotry, he has taken ACTION to advance and empower minorities in America.”
As a Black man serving in the Trump White House, I have seen firsthand this Administration’s unwavering support of communities of color. @realDonaldTrump has not only denounced ALL forms of hatred and bigotry, he has taken ACTION to advance and empower minorities in America. https://t.co/VXubXlxW5i
— Harrison Fields (@HWFields45) October 1, 2020
And, yes, the president has made lowering black unemployment and implementing criminal justice reform key priorities in his administration, although a thorough recapitulation of those seems supererogatory.
So, too, would be another recap of the speaker lineup at the Republican National Convention in August, where the roster included numerous black speakers and a focus on issues of importance to the black community. Given that Trump had more than a passing hand in the affair, this seems like an odd move for a supposed white supremacist to make.
However, nominal debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News (great job, by the way) decided to give a callback of sorts to Trump’s massively decontextualized “very fine people on both sides” remark in the aftermath of the 2017 Charlottesville protests when he asked the president “to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down” in divided cities like Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon.
The president did, though he seemed confused regarding the Proud Boys, far-right agents provocateurs responsible for a number of skirmishes, especially in Portland. Trump told them to “stand back and stand by,” but he would clarify those remarks the day after the debate.
“I can only say they have to stand down. Let law enforcement do their work,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Law enforcement will do the work more and more as people see how bad this radical liberal Democrat movement is and how weak.”
“Just stand by. Look, law enforcement will do their work,” Trump said. “They have to stand down. Everybody — whatever group you’re talking about.”
That didn’t stop a testy exchange between Roberts and McEnany.
“I’d like to ask you for a definitive and declarative statement without ambiguity or deflection,” Roberts said to McEnany during a Thursday media briefing. “As the person who speaks for the president, does the president denounce white supremacism and groups that espouse it in all their forms?”
“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,” McEnany said.
“Yesterday he was point-blank asked, ‘Do you denounce white supremacy?’ And he said, ‘I’ve always denounced any form of that.’ 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. He has condemned white supremacy more than any president in modern history.”
“You read a bunch of quotes from the past,” Roberts said. “Can you…”
“The president was asked this. You’re contriving a storyline and a narrative,” she shot back.
Roberts didn’t need to ask McEnany, though. He could have gone to his wife, ABC’s Kyra Phillips, who’d asked the president roughly the same question and gotten an answer that wasn’t materially different — as McEnany noted on Twitter:
— Kyra Phillips (@KyraPhillips) September 30, 2020
— Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) October 1, 2020
Years from now, as marriage counselors try to reach married couples with communication breakdown issues, my guess is these tweets — if they aren’t deleted — will still find usage.
And yet, even as the news the president had tested positive for COVID-19 overtook the undercooked white supremacy storyline, there were still some unwilling to let it go — or even willing to mix the two together:
Stream of consciousness week in review:
Donald Trump paid $750 in income tax and wants an investigation into the leaks but not the ProudBoys who he told to stand by before remembering he didn’t know who they were but then he and his Christmas hating wife got a hoax called Covid.
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) October 2, 2020
Trump like 2 days ago told the Proud Boys to be on standby and refused to condemn white supremacy and you clowns are out here giving him your condolences
— 🌑 (@Abalisah) October 2, 2020
Trump told the “Proud Boys” to be on standby when he should’ve really told his medical team that. Oh well. pic.twitter.com/pKtekzlUYe
— 𝕮𝖔𝖚𝖗𝖙 𝕶𝖎𝖒 💥 (@TheCourtKim) October 2, 2020
All very normal.
Believe what you want.
Harrison Fields is a black man who works in a high position in the White House. He’s in a better position to judge Donald Trump’s racial prejudices than Elie Mystal, who doesn’t work with the president.
If you want to talk about the president’s treatment of minorities, ask a minority who works for the president.
Instead, what the left has is confirmation bias and some awkward phrasing during a presidential debate.
This is a false narrative that should be put to rest. Like most useful false narratives, though, it’ll be staying up way past its bedtime — at least until Election Day, one gathers.
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