- Fox News' reporter John Roberts lost his temper on air on 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.
- During the presidential debate on Tuesday, Trump declined to explicitly condemn white-supremacist groups.
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The Fox News reporter John Roberts on Thursday became visibly frustrated with the White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany's responses to questions on why President Donald Trump had 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 the Fox host Melissa Francis.
He mentioned that several prominent Republicans in Congress had 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!" Roberts said. "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."
—Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 1, 2020
During the briefing, Roberts asked McEnany for a declarative statement on whether the president denounced white supremacism and groups that espouse it.
McEnany falsely said Trump had "condemned white supremacy more than any other president in modern history." White-supremacist and other far-right groups have frequently celebrated Trump's rhetoric and policy positions, and white nationalists have endorsed him in the past.
The White House press secretary went on to misleadingly say that Trump's "record on this is unmistakable," adding that it was "shameful that the media refuses to cover it."
Later, McEnany went after Roberts on Twitter and noted that his wife, the reporter Kyra Phillips, said in a tweet on Wednesday that Trump "tells me he DENOUNCES white supremacists."
—Kayleigh McEnany (@PressSec) October 1, 2020
But Roberts' questions on Thursday were linked to Trump's well-documented history of decrying white supremacy only feebly after public pressure. The president has repeatedly failed to forcefully condemn white-supremacist groups and their ideology.
Trump has on many occasions made comments that directly align with the worldviews of white supremacists; he told a rally of nearly all white supporters in Minnesota last month that they had "good genes" as he referenced the "racehorse theory."
It's true that the president has disavowed white-supremacist groups in some instances. But this has generally occurred after he received an endorsement from such groups or people associated with them — including the Ku Klux Klan — or after he ignited backlash for making racist or xenophobic statements.
In one of the most infamous moments of his presidency, Trump blamed "many sides" for violence at a neo-Nazi rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a counterprotester was killed.
Subsequently, the former KKK leader David Duke celebrated Trump's remarks and thanked the president for condemning the "leftist terrorists."
After the outcry over his response, Trump came forward to denounce 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
During the presidential debate on Tuesday, the moderator, Chris Wallace of Fox News, asked Trump to explicitly condemn white-supremacist groups. In response, Trump elevated a far-right extremist group with a record of disseminating white-nationalist propaganda and perpetrating violence.
"Proud Boys, stand back and stand by!" Trump said. "But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."
On Wednesday, Trump backtracked and claimed he didn't know who the Proud Boys were, despite explicitly mentioning them during the debate. It was part of a broader pattern for Trump, who has leaned heavily on white-supremacist ploys as he fights for reelection.