Reprinted with permission from Alternet
President Donald Trump is down sharply in the polls against former Vice President Joe Biden, so he desperately needs to do something to change the course of the race.
But right at the start of his NBC News town hall on Thursday, Trump went on a tear of aggressive argument and disinformation with host Savannah Guthrie.
Once again, Guthrie asked Trump to denounce white supremacy. This question was a major pitfall for him in the first presidential debate. This time, he was at least able to get out the words "I denounce white supremacy." But his behavior told a different story. He clearly wanted to move beyond the topic quickly, attacking Antifa and Guthrie herself for asking the question. The fact that he was so offended to even be asked the question was revealing in itself.
"I denounce white supremacy," Pres. Trump tells @SavannahGuthrie at #TrumpTownHall. https://t.co/kGHxt94JDf— NBC News (@NBC News)1602808128.0
He spoke extremely fast and frequently raised his voice to Guthrie, clearly trying to bully her. Much of what he said was nonsensical, false, or intentional disinformation.
But while he would denounce white supremacy — however reluctantly — Trump refused to denounce QAnon, the disturbing right-wing and anit-Semitic conspiracy fiction that alleges a massive Satanic pedophilia cult run by Democrats. Trump, in this delusion, is fighting the cult. Trump has been asked about it before, and offered some vague support to the group, but he pretended to Guthrie that he didn't know enough about it to denounce it.
Not only did he not denounce the adherents of QAnon, he offered them some support, saying: "I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard." This is, in fact, false. By pushing wild conspiracy theories about pedophiles, these groups actually can make it harder for law enforcement and others to effectively tackle the problem. Adherents of the theory have been implicated in multiple criminal cases themselves.
Later, Guthrie asked the president about his choice to retweet bogus stories alleging that members of the Navy's SEAL Team Six had been murdered and that the killing of Osama bin Laden under President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden was a hoax. It was a truly baffling thing for the president to share, though it went largely ignored prior to the town hall because the media is used to this behavior.
And when Trump was pressed on his retweets, he made no defense for spreading disinformation from his extremely large online platform. He said readers can "decide for themselves" — which isn't the attitude he takes when his opponents are spreading what he calls "fake news."
Pres. Trump: “That was a retweet, I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.” @SavannahGuthrie: “I… https://t.co/CYdb0pZwFW— MSNBC (@MSNBC)1602808405.0
The conversation soon shifted to discussion of the election, and Trump immediately started spreading more disinformation, as Business Insider reporter Grace Panetta noted:
Trump is spreading so much false and misleading information about voting right now it's hard to keep up — he cites… https://t.co/XoFvAOH7bQ— Grace Panetta (@Grace Panetta)1602807595.0
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