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Donald Trump defended spreading a preposterous conspiracy theory about the death of Osama bin Laden during a town hall on NBC Thursday night, saying he had merely been passing along a supporter’s view.
“That was an opinion of somebody and that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves,” he said, when questioned by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie about his passing along a theory that the killing of bin Laden by Navy SEAL Team 6 had been staged, and that members of the unit had been killed to cover it up.
“I don’t get that. You’re the president,” Guthrie said. “You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.”
Pres. Trump: “That was a retweet, I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”@SavannahGuthrie: “I don’t get that. You’re the president. You’re not, like, someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever.” #TrumpTownHall pic.twitter.com/sFEiIbJPgd
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 16, 2020
Trump clashed repeatedly with Guthrie at the start of Thursday’s town hall, which had been hastily scheduled after the president pulled out of a previously scheduled debate rather than agree to holding it virtually.
Guthrie started by asking Trump when he had last tested negative for COVID-19 before announcing his positive result on Oct. 1.
“Well I test quite a bit,” Trump said, “and I can tell you that before the debate, which I thought it was a very good debate, and I felt fantastically, I had no problem before—”
“Did you test the day of the debate?” Guthrie interrupted.
“I don’t know, I don’t even remember. I test all the time, but I can tell you this: After the debate, like I guess a day or so, I think it was Thursday evening, maybe even late Thursday evening, I tested positive.”
“Well, back to the debate, because the debate commission’s rules, it was the honor system, would be that you would come with a negative test. You’re saying you don’t know if you got a test on the day of the debate?”
“I had no problem, again, the doctors do it, I don’t ask them. I test all the time—”
“Did you take a test though the day of the debate?”
“You ask the doctors, they’ll give you a perfect answer.”
Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, has repeatedly refused to answer when Trump last tested negative for COVID-19.
Trump then added, “I probably did,” but added that he has not receive a COVID-19 test every day, as members of his administration have long asserted.
Trump said he didn’t know where or when he was infected by the coronavirus, but he didn’t rule out the possibility that he had contracted it at a White House meeting with Gold Star families the day after a White Housed event to announce the choice of Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee for the Supreme Court.
“These people are the most incredible people. And they came up to me and they would hug me and they would touch me and I’m not going to not let them do it,” Trump said, adding, “I could have chosen not to talk to them, to keep everybody away and you know what, I don’t think that’s probably where it was caught, maybe it was.”
“Well, I was going to say, you bring it up,” Guthrie then interjected, “I mean are you trying to suggest that you believe a grieving military family gave you COVID?”
“No, I don’t know where it came from, and you don’t know where it came from and the doctors don’t know where it came from. But as the president, I have to be out there.”
Following more discussion of COVID-19 and an argument about whether the U.S. has been “a winner” by the metric of excess mortality, Guthrie pressed the president on why it seemed he had trouble denouncing white supremacy.
“You were asked point blank to denounce white supremacy. In the moment you didn’t. You asked some follow-up questions: Who specifically? A couple of days later on a different show you denounced white supremacy—”
As Guthrie formulated her question, Trump grew irritated.
“I denounced white supremacy, OK?” he shot back. “I denounced white supremacy for years, but you always do it, you always start off with the question. You didn’t ask Joe Biden whether or not he denounces antifa,” Trump said, adding, “Are you listening, I denounce white supremacy.”
Guthrie continued, “It feels sometimes like you’re hesitant to do so—”
“Here we go again,” Trump interrupted. “Every time, in fact, when people came, ‘I’m sure they’ll ask you the white supremacy question.’ I denounce white supremacy, and frankly, you want to know something, I denounce antifa and I denounce these people on the left that are burning down our cities that are run by the Democrats who don’t—”
“While we’re denouncing,” Guthrie interrupted, “Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a Satanic pedophile ring and you are the savior of that. Now can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true?”
“I know nothing about QAnon—” Trump began.
“I just told you,” Guthrie countered.
“Well, you told me but what you tell me doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say that. I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard, but I know nothing about it.”
After more crosstalk about antifa, Guthrie broke through by noting that “Republican Senator Ben Sasse said, ‘QAnon is nuts and real leaders call out conspiracy theories.’ Why not just say it’s crazy and not true?”
“He may be right, I just don’t know about QAnon,” Trump said.
“You do know,” Guthrie insisted.
“I don’t know, no, I don’t know,” Trump said, adding, “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.”
“But there’s not a Satanic pedophile cult—”
“I don’t know that. I know nothing about that,” Trump insisted.
“You know nothing about that,” Guthrie responded, incredulously.
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