CNN contributor Salena Zito excused President Donald Trump’s refusal to disavow the unhinged and dangerous conspiracy theory QAnon during his NBC town hall, saying Friday morning that Trump was just “answering the question in the way that he believes voters are viewing this type of question.”
During his combative and largely disastrous town hall forum Thursday night, the president—who has repeatedly amplified QAnon on Twitter—was pressed by moderator Savannah Guthrie to denounce QAnon, asking whether he’d state “once and for all” that the conspiracy that claims Democrats are running a satanic pedophiliac cabal is untrue.
“I know nothing about it. I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard,” Trump asserted, prompting Guthrie to point out that QAnon followers “believe in a Satanic cult run by the deep state.”
“I’ll tell you what I do know about, I’ll tell you about antifa,” the president deflected.
During a Friday morning CNN panel discussion on the president’s town hall, CNN anchor Jim Sciutto brought up the exchange on QAnon, asking Zito why it wasn’t a “simple answer” for Trump to disavow the baseless claims, especially when he’s trying to “win over skeptical undecided voters.”
Zito, whose Trump-voter-whispering columns brought her fame during the last election, attempted to explain away the president’s response by framing it through the lens of salt-of-the-earth voters. The Washington Examiner political reporter is known for her dispatches from Trump country in which she speaks to average folks at gas stations, reports that have come under fire over accusations of plagiarism, misrepresentation, and fabulism.
“I think the president is answering the question in the way that he believes voters are viewing this type of question,” she noted. “I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, I just think that that is his instinct.”
“So what he says is, ‘You know, I don’t know everything about them, all right, and I don’t know this part about them but I do know this tiny bit about them,’ and in talking to voters undecided and who are watching that, they tend to be more interested, fair or unfair, about things that impact their lives rather than things that tend to live in their point of view on the internet and not really in their lives,” Zito added.
Sciutto quickly objected, pointing out that QAnon “is a conspiracy theory that Democrats are running a child sex ring” and is “patently false,” pressing Zito on why it isn’t easy for Trump to simply denounce the baseless theory.
“Of course. It should be very easy,” she replied. “He’s not always done things in the way that we, as journalists, have an expectation for him to do, and we as journalists want to see a straight answer, even about something that people are unsure what it means, let alone to how to even say it.”
“And yeah, it should be easy to say, no, that’s—I don’t support that and I condemn it,” Zito concluded. “It’s crisp in clear terms in the way he denounced white supremacy last night, and he should have been able to do that with that as well.”