CNN anchor Jake Tapper booted Trump’s campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh on Wednesday after the Trump flack continued to deflect when pressed on the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists, invoking the much-maligned moderator of Tuesday’s debate in the process.
Following an off-the-rails presidential debate that was described by reporters as a “shitshow,” President Donald Trump has faced intense backlash for telling the far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” while refusing to disavow right-wing extremists and white supremacy.
After multiple aides tried to clean up his remarks on Wednesday by blaming debate moderator Chris Wallace or claiming the president actually did repeatedly refute white supremacy on Tuesday night, the president attempted to clarify his comments on Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t know who the Proud Boys are,” Trump said, adding that he wants to “let law enforcement do their work.”
When asked specifically if he condemns the white supremacists who “clearly love you,” Trump further equivocated, saying only that “law and order” is important to him and “I’ve always denounced any form, any form, of that.”
Playing his part in Team Trump’s effort to spin the latest mess by the president, Murtaugh appeared on CNN’s The Lead and was immediately pressed by Tapper, who had already described the debate as a “hot mess.”
After Murtaugh first tried to cite an opt-in Twitter poll to claim that Trump won the debate, prompting Tapper to point out that it isn’t a “real poll,” the Trump spokesman dismissed Republicans and conservatives who have criticized the president over his debate performance.
“The president went in with a very clear plan,” Murtaugh replied. “And he executed that plan very well. He was aggressive.”
Tapper, meanwhile, pointed out that even conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh—who Trump recently awarded the Medal of Freedom—said that Trump’s “strategy didn’t work,” something Murtaugh shrugged off.
Murtaugh attempted to steamroll Tapper at this point, prompting Tapper to admonish him.
“Tim, the way that this works is, I ask a question and you answer, not I ask a question and you talk for ten minutes,” the host stated before bringing up Trump continuing to equivocate on white supremacy.
“He was asked, ‘Do you welcome the support of white supremacists who love you?’ He started talking about law and order,” Tapper noted. “Then pressed he said he denounces, ‘any form of any of that.’ Why is it so difficult for President Trump to say, "I condemn white supremacy, I do not want the support of white supremacists'? Why is that so difficult for this president?”
Murtaugh, however, insisted that Trump has “done it many, many times” and that the “media has to accept yes for an answer,” causing Tapper to point out that Trump “didn’t do it today.” The Trump spokesman, meanwhile, pivoted to the president’s “very fine people” Charlottesville remarks as proof that Trump has denounced white supremacists.
“You even defended him for that. On this very show,” Murtaugh exclaimed at one point.
‘I never defended it. I never defended him,” Tapper shot back, adding that he gave a lengthy explanation of the president’s remarks in the past before asking, “Tim, who were the very fine people?”
“I’m not going to relitigate,” Murtaugh huffed.
“Right, because there were none,” Tapper retorted. “That’s the point.”
Eventually, after Tapper again pressed Murtaugh on why the president can’t condemn white supremacists, the Trump spokesperson started accusing Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden of being a racist. Humoring him for a short while, the Lead host finally decided enough was enough.
“OK, you know what, I’m not Chris Wallace,” he said, cutting Murtaugh off and ending the interview. “Thank you, Tim. I appreciate it. Thank you so much.”