Time and again, President Trump has been pressed to denounce QAnon, the baseless far-right conspiracy theory positing that he is the right’s savior from a deep state ring of leftist pedophiles and child traffickers. And time and again, he has refused.
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when, after Savannah Guthrie asked him to denounce QAnon during his NBC town hall Thursday night, the president explicitly refused to do so, even going so far as to claim that he knew “nothing” about the conspiracy theory.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let me ask you about QAnon. It is this theory that Democrats are a Satanic pedophile ring and that you are the savior of them. Now, can you just once and for all state that that is completely not true and disavow QAnon in its entirety?”
DONALD TRUMP: So I know – yeah. I know nothing about QAnon.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: I just told you.
DONALD TRUMP: You told me, but just telling me doesn’t necessarily make it fact, I hate to say it. I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia. They fight it very hard. But I know nothing about it.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: They believe it is a Satanic cult run by the Deep State.
DONALD TRUMP: I’ll tell you what I do know about. I know about Antifa and the radical left.
Trump went on to say, “What I do hear about it is that they are very strongly against pedophilia and I agree with that. I mean, I agree with that. And I do agree with that very strongly.”
This is not the first time Trump, who has retweeted QAnon accounts at least 258 times, has been asked directly about QAnon. Back in August, he was asked to denounce QAnon when pressed about his support of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a GOP congressional candidate who has publicly espoused the movement. Later that month, he was asked specifically about QAnon in the White House briefing room. “I don’t know much about the movement other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate,” he said at the time. (QAnon followers, who hang on to the president’s every word and view them as an implicit endorsement of their movement, were absolutely elated by the shoutout.)
During the town hall, Guthrie also asked Trump about a retweet amplifying a QAnon account. Trump retweeted to his 82 million followers a baseless conspiracy theory that Vice President Joe Biden orchestrated the murder of members of the SEAL Team 6 unit that killed Osama Bin Laden. “I know nothing about it,” Trump claimed of the tweet. “That was a retweet — that was an opinion of somebody. And that was a retweet. I’ll put it out there. People can decide for themselves.”
Guthrie responded: “I don’t get that. You’re the president — you’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can just retweet whatever!”
The QAnon exchange Thursday was similar to Trump’s refusal to denounce another far-right extremist group, the Proud Boys, during last month’s presidential debate, urging the group to “stand back and stand by” rather than explicitly condemning violence. Much like the Proud Boys, who were invigorated by Trump’s remarks, prominent QAnon supporters on Parler and Telegram were thrilled by what they perceived as Trump’s shoutout. “Nobody can stop what’s coming,” one prominent account posted in the wake of his remarks.
Ironically, despite Trump’s claims that QAnon supporters are “very much against pedophilia” and “fight it very hard,” prominent anti-trafficking organizations have claimed that movements like #SaveTheChildren, a QAnon-driven campaign that went mainstream last summer, actually make it far more difficult to rescue trafficked children.