- Fox News’ reporter John Roberts lost his temper on-air Thursday as he discussed the White House’s efforts to dance around questions on President Donald Trump’s stance on white supremacy.
- “Stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media. I’m tired of it,” Roberts said in an impassioned reaction to Thursday’s press briefing.
- Trump on Tuesday declined to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups during the presidential debate.
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Fox News reporter John Roberts on Thursday was visibly frustrated with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany’s responses to questions on why President Donald Trump has not condemned white supremacist groups.
“Stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media. I’m tired of it,” Roberts said in an impassioned reaction to Thursday’s press briefing.
“The press secretary would not, in a definitive and unambiguous and non-deflecting way, say that the president condemns white supremacism in all its forms and any group that espouses it,” Roberts told Fox host Melissa Francis.
He went on to cite the fact that a number of prominent Republicans in Congress have urged Trump to “correct” his recent statements on the matter.
“For all of you on Twitter who are hammering me for asking that question, I don’t care! 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,” Roberts said.
—Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 1, 2020
Roberts during the briefing asked McEnany for a declarative statement to whether the president denounces white supremacism and groups that espouse it.
McEnany in response falsely stated that Trump has “condemned white supremacy more than any other president in modern history.” Trump’s rhetoric and policy positions have frequently been celebrated by white supremacist and other far right groups, and he’s been endorsed by white nationalists in the past.
The White House press secretary went on to misleadingly say that Trump’s “record on this is unmistakable and it’s shameful the media refuses to cover it.”
Later, McEnany took to Twitter to go after Roberts and note that his wife, reporter Kyra Phillips, in a tweet on Wednesday said that “Trump tells me he DENOUNCES white supremacists.”
—Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) October 1, 2020
But Roberts’ questions on Thursday were linked to a well-documented history of Trump decrying white supremacy only after public pressure and in a feeble, belated manner. The president has repeatedly failed to forcefully condemn white supremacist groups and their ideology.
Trump on many occasions has made comments that directly align with the worldviews of white supremacist, such as declaring to a rally full of nearly all white supporters in Minnesota last month that they have “good genes” as he referenced the “racehorse theory.”
It’s true that there have been instances in which the president has disavowed white supremacist groups. But this has generally occurred after he received an endorsement from such groups or associated individuals, including the Ku Klux Klan, or after he ignited backlash via racist or xenophobic statements.
In one of the most infamous moments of his presidency, Trump blamed “many sides” for deadly violence at a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. A counterprotester was killed during the white nationalist rally.
Subsequently, former KKK leader David Duke celebrated Trump’s remarks and thanked the president for condemning the “leftist terrorists.”
After the outcry over his initial response to the alarming events in Charlottesville, Trump finally came forward and denounced white nationalist groups. But it took a significant amount of criticism, including from Republicans, to push Trump to that point.
—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 1, 2020
Given this history, Trump during the presidential debate on Tuesday was asked by moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News to explicitly condemn white supremacist groups. Trump in response elevated a far-right extremist group with a record of disseminating white nationalist propaganda and a history of street violence.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by! But I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left,” Trump said in response to Wallace.
On Wednesday, Trump backtracked and claimed he didn’t know who the Proud Boys are, despite explicitly mentioning them during the debate. This is part of a broader pattern with Trump, who has leaned heavily on white supremacist ploys as he fights for reelection.