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Days after the first presidential debate, and the White House is still on the defensive about the president’s comments, or the lack thereof, over white supremacy.
At a press briefing Thursday a Fox News reporter asked press secretary Kayleigh McEnany to put the matter to bed and clarify the White House position on the issue.
REPORTER: "I'd like to ask you for a definitive and declarative without ambiguity or deflection. As the person who speaks for the President, Does the President denounce white supremacism and groups that espouse it in all their forms?"
MCENANY: "This has been answered, yesterday by the President himself and the day before by the President himself on the debate stage, the President was asked this, he said "sure" three times. Yesterday, he was point blank asked: 'Do you denounce white supremacy?' and he said 'I've always denounced any form of that.'
REPORTER: "Just to clear it up, this morning. Can you, naming it, make a declarative statement that the President denounces it?"
MCENANY: "I just did. The President has denounced this repeatedly. The President was asked this. You're contriving a storyline and a narrative. (REPORTER OFF-CAMERA SAYING: No I'm not. I'm just asking you to put this to rest) MCENANY CONTINUING: I just did.
Trump’s performance at Tuesday night’s debate, when he deflected a question about whether he condemns white supremacists, was met with outrage among Democrats, and with plenty of discomfort from Republicans on Capitol Hill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to make clear what Trump had not:
“I want to associate myself with the remarks of Senator Tim Scott, that he put out earlier today. [FLASH] He said it was unacceptable not to condemn white supremacists, and so I do so in the strongest possible way."
At the debate, Trump told the Proud Boys, who are considered to be a far-right hate group, to “stand back and stand by” and then a day later claimed not to know anything about them.
TRUMP: “I don’t know who the Proud Boys are. I mean, you'll have to give me a definition because I really don't know who they are.”
But members of the group reportedly celebrated that the president not only refused to condemn them, but appeared to give them vague marching orders.
REPORTER: "You say he denounced them, that's what you're insisting he did on the debate stage the other night. If that's the case, then why are they celebrating what the president said on the debate stage in front of millions of people?"
MCENANY: "I don’t speak for that group, so I'm not sure why you're asking me why they're saying a certain thing..."
REPORTER "If someone denounced you you probably wouldn’t put it on a t-shirt and make badges of it, right?"
MCENANY: "The president did denounce them. He was asked will you tell them to stand down? He said, 'sure'."
Multiple senior federal officials, including at the FBI and Department of Homeland Security this month, have warned that white supremacist groups pose the most serious threat of domestic violence in the United States.