Larry Kudlow, former CNBC host-turned-Trump advisor, attempted to deny reality to CNN host Brianna Keilar, who quoted President Donald Trump admitting he had “second thoughts” about his trade war with China and multiple world leaders critical of Trump’s handling of trade.
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) August 25, 2019
Keilar’s first question had to do with Trump telling reporters he had “second thoughts” about the escalating trade war with China: “Yeah, sure. Why not?” the president answered. “I have second thoughts about everything.”
REPORTER: Any second thoughts about escalating trade war with China?
TRUMP: "Yeah. Sure. Why not? … I have second thoughts about everything."
R: Are you going to declare a national emergency on China?
TRUMP: "Well I have the right to, if I want." (He then lies about tariffs) pic.twitter.com/722yl1n1Td
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 25, 2019
Within hours, though, Kudlow was on CNN attempting to walk back the president’s remarks, claiming that Trump didn’t hear the question, despite the fact that he repeated the reporter’s words of “second thoughts.”
“Well, look, if I can reinterpret that, I mean, he spoke to us. He didn’t exactly hear the question,” Kudlow said. “Actually, what he was intending to say is, he always has second thoughts, and he actually had second thoughts about possibly a higher tariff response to China. So, it was not to remove the tariff. He was thinking about a higher tariff response.”
So according to Kudlow, Trump’s only second thoughts were whether he should have increased the tariffs more.
“I just want to be clear on this,” Keilar questioned. “So, he has thought that he might want to increase the tariffs, but he isn’t actually going to increase the tariffs, beyond what he initially did?”
“That is correct. At the moment, that is absolutely correct,” Kudlow said. “That was his thought. It somehow got misinterpreted. I’m not sure he heard the question altogether. It was a very crowded room. I was there. But, yes, his thought was, perhaps he needed to go higher.”
But Keilar pointed out that the president’s comments seem to coincide with an overall “softening” on his stance with China, as he has backed off his threat to use emergency powers to force US firms from conducting business with China. “He also said he’s no longer planning on forcing U.S. businesses to leave China. So, it does seem as if he is softening on this issue broadly,” she said.
Kudlow, however, once again tried to deny Keilar’s facts and even the president’s own words. “No, he didn’t order. He did not order the businesses,” Kudlow said before backtracking because the president indeed did use the word “order,” saying, “I know he said, ‘I hereby order.’ But what he said to them, in effect, was that you begin to look or you begin to search for ways to move out of China.”
In other words, don’t believe your lying eyes and ears.
Kudlow again took issue with reality when Keilar brought up that many G7 leaders were not happy with how Trump has dealt with China.
“The president’s been getting a lot of pushback on his trade war,” Keilar said. “The EU leader, Donald Tusk, warned that this would ‘lead to a recession.’ Macron says it is ‘bad for everyone.’ And even his closest ally at the G7, the new UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, said… ‘We don’t like tariffs on the whole.'”
“Well, look, yes, I’m not sure I agree how you portrayed that, to be honest,” Kudlow responded. “I was in that meeting on the economy and trade.”
“What do you mean?” Keilar asked, astonished. “It was a — that’s a quote.”
Kudlow then tried to convince the audience that he was in the meeting and all of the leaders praise Trump’s handling of China.
But Keilar was not convinced, having seen the video. “Larry, what’s out of context? Because we just rolled video. I mean, what is out of context with that quote?”
“I was there. I heard every single one of those leaders agree that China has exercised continuous debilitating and destabilizing unfair trading practices. Every single one of those leaders said that. And they expressed support for President Trump, who is leading the way to try to get China to make changes,” Kudlow said, adding, “I was in that room. And so that’s why I’m saying what you may have said — and I don’t know where these guys said that — is out of context.”
“Look, I just have to take issue with that, Larry,” Keilar replied, again quoting the world leaders. “You cannot deny that they do not like how this is being operated.”
Kudlow then tried to tell Keilar that those quotes were “out of context” because they didn’t occur in the meeting of world leaders. But once again, reality and Keilar disagreed with him.
“That’s in the meeting, Larry,” Keilar said. “Larry, those words came out of Boris Johnson’s mouth… How do you argue with that?”
Kudlow tried to deflect, dodging the question and instead talking about how he views the talks so far as positive. “Actually, you want to know the truth, Brianna — I know you will probably not agree — my view was, the meeting this morning, in fact, the whole conference, including the unexpected luncheon between President Trump and President Macron, has gone very well, better than we thought, with a very positive vibe.”
But Keilar wasn’t going to let Kudlow’s fact twisting go. “I just want to be clear, that was video of Boris Johnson speaking in that very meeting. I just want to be very clear about that,” she said.
Kudlow’s remarks are reminiscent of Kellyanne Conway’s presentation of “alternative facts” following Trump’s inauguration and is typical of the Trump White House: if you don’t like reality, claim “fake news” and make your own.