On Thursday night, after backing out of the second presidential debate, Donald Trump sat down for a town hall with NBC to make his case to America on why he should be reelected to a second term. While he was asked questions by moderator Savannah Guthrie on everything from white supremacy to COVID-19 to his taxes, one exchange in particular really crystallized the choice voters face. In Joe Biden, they would be electing a candidate who believes in science, expertise, and facts and would spend his time as president working for all Americans. And in Trump, they would be getting four more years of a guy who floats conspiracy theories that, among other things, his political enemies are running a satanic pedophile cult.
“Let me ask you about QAnon,” Guthrie said, referring to the far-right, batshit-fucking-crazy conspiracy theory that a cabal of Democratic politicians, liberal Hollywood actors, and high-ranking government officials, who worship Satan, are running a child-sex-trafficking ring and simultaneously plotting against Trump, who is planning a day of reckoning in which thousands of members of the cult will be arrested. “It is this theory that Democrats are a satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of that. Now, can you just, once and for all, state that that is completely not true and disavow QAnon in its entirety?” To reiterate, the thing Guthrie was asking the president of the United States to reject was the completely insane, entirely baseless claim that his political enemies and other liberals are running a satanic child-sex-trafficking cult. Which is not hard to denounce, unless you (1) believe it and/or (2) are counting on these deeply disturbed individuals to vote for you. And yet:
“I know nothing about QAnon,” Trump said.
“I just told you,” Guthrie responded.
“I know very little,” the president insisted. “You told me, but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact. I hate to say that. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia,” he added, contradicting his claim to know nothing about the group and also giving the impression that they’re human rights workers instead of fringe lunatics. “They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it...I’ll tell you what I do know about. I know about antifa, and I know about the radical left, and I know how violent they are and how vicious they are. And I know how they are burning down cities run by Democrats, not run by Republicans.”
Informing him that Republican senator Ben Sasse recently said, “QAnon is nuts—and real leaders call conspiracy theories conspiracy theories,” Guthrie again pressed Trump on why he won’t “just say it’s crazy and not true.” And apparently the answer is that the president thinks QAnon might be onto something:
Trump: Can I be honest? [Sasse] may be right. I just don’t know about QAnon.
Guthrie: You do know.
Trump: I don’t know. No, I don’t know. I don’t know. You tell me all about it.
Guthrie: Let me ask you another thing.
Trump: Let’s waste the whole show. You start off with white supremacy. I denounce it. You start off with something else. Let’s go. Keep asking me these questions. But let me just tell you, what I do hear about it is they are very strongly against pedophilia. And I agree with that. I mean, I do agree with that, and I agree with it very strongly.
Guthrie: But there’s not a Satanic pedophile cult being run by—
Trump: I have no idea. I know nothing about them.
Guthrie: You don’t know that? Okay.
Trump: No, I don’t know that.
Of course the existence of a satanic child-sex-trafficking cult isn’t the only conspiracy theory the president has amplified. “Just this week,” Guthrie reminded him, “you retweeted to your 87 million followers a conspiracy theory that Joe Biden orchestrated to have SEAL Team Six, the Navy SEAL Team Six, killed to cover up the fake death of bin Laden. Now, why would you send a lie like that to your followers?” Trump again claimed to “know nothing about” such a rumor but suggested that maybe it was true and that it would be up to his followers to decide. “That was a retweet,” he said. “I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves,” again, if Joe Biden planned the murders of special forces to cover up the fact that the government didn’t really kill the architect of 9/11. “I don’t take a position.”
“I don’t get that,” Guthrie said, giving Trump entirely too much credit. “You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”
“That was a retweet,” said Trump, who is asking Americans to give him an additional four years in the White House. “And I do a lot of retweets. And frankly, because the media is so fake and so corrupt, if I didn’t have social media...I wouldn’t be able to get the word out.”
In related news, for the people who are still undecided, the president made the case on Friday that he’s not just completely insane, he’s a certified moron:
President Donald Trump on Friday shared a story from a known news satire website seemingly in earnest, using the fake report to blast Twitter’s handling of dubious allegations against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The story tweeted by the president early Friday morning was published by the Babylon Bee—which bills itself online as “the world’s best satire site”—and stated that Twitter had “shut down its entire social network” Thursday to stop the spread of negative news about Biden.
“Wow, this has never been done in history,” Trump tweeted. “This includes his really bad interview last night. Why is Twitter doing this. Bringing more attention to Sleepy Joe & Big T.”
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