Another day, another off-the-rails interview featuring a Trump campaign flack fighting with a CNN host while defending President Donald Trump’s latest insane controversy and embrace of conspiracies.
In a lengthy and extremely combative exchange Wednesday morning on CNN, Trump’s campaign press secretary Hogan Gidley was immediately pressed by anchor Jim Sciutto on the president’s recent visit to Kenosha, Wisconsin, the site of violent protests following the police shooting of Jacob Blake.
“During his trip, the president defended a man, a 17-year-old now accused of homicide. He did not mention Jacob Blake’s name once there,” Sciutto wondered aloud. “Why is that?”
Gidley argued that Trump “didn’t defend” alleged teenaged murderer Kyle Rittenhouse, claiming that the president instead just pointed to video footage that he claimed shows that Rittenhouse “was attacked and it appears as though that man did act in self-defense.”
After Sciutto followed up by asking whether Trump endorses a 17-year-old traveling to another state and acting as law enforcement, Gidley said the president does not, then seemingly defended Rittenhouse’s alleged vigilantism.
“If you don’t allow police to do their job, then the American people have to defend themselves some way,” Gidley began, prompting Sciutto to accuse him of justifying vigilante justice.
“No! I did no such thing,” Gidley yelled, sending the interview into its predictable downward spiral.
After the campaign official clarified that armed citizens taking the law into their hands is “a bad idea,” Sciutto pivoted to the president’s embrace of baseless conspiracy theories.
“The president has been sharing a whole host of unfounded conspiracy theories, many of them sourced from QAnon, which I know you’re well aware of,” the CNN host declared. “I just wonder does the president actually believe some of these theories, or is he just trying to keep the support of QAnon people, many of whom support the president and have visited his rallies. Does he believe some of these things, actually?”
Gidley claimed he was “confused” and didn’t know what “theories” Sciutto was referencing, leading Sciutto to bring up the president’s fantastical tale about a plane load of black-clad antifa soldiers heading to Washington, D.C. to “do big damage” at the Republican National Convention.
“Well, I haven’t spoken with him directly about this and you know, Jim, because you worked in the Obama administration, the information you receive inside the White House is much different,” Gidley responded, snarking about Sciutto’s previous role as chief of staff to the U.S. ambassador to China.
The Trump flack went on to claim he doesn’t have information on Trump’s claim—which matches a debunked Facebook post—while simultaneously lending credence to it, wondering “who pays for the flights” of out-of-town protesters.
“Is there an investigation underway, or is the president just sharing something that he heard online?” Sciutto shot back.
“Again, that’s a question you’d have to ask to the White House,” Gidley responded. “I don’t work there anymore.”
Gidley and Sciutto continued to go back and forth over the president amplifying conspiracies about liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros, with the CNN host pointing out that attacks on the billionaire are typically rooted in anti-Semitism and often pushed by QAnon conspiracists.
“QAnon, as you know, started with the conspiracy theory that Democrats and Hollywood stars are running a child sex ring out of a pizzeria here in Washington,” Sciutto finally pressed Gidley. “Does the president believe that QAnon conspiracy theory?”
“Again, not to my knowledge,” the campaign spokesperson shrugged. “I’ve had no conversation with him about that. We’re not focused on that here.”
Gidley, meanwhile, is the just the most recent White House and campaign official to have credulously claimed they’re unaware of QAnon, even as the president has offered sympathy for the followers of the unhinged and violent conspiracy.
From that point, the conversation devolved into a shoutfest as Gidley called Russian election interference a “debunked” conspiracy while the CNN host repeatedly asked why Trump wouldn’t warn Vladimir Putin to not meddle in American elections.
And then the personal potshots came.
“Does Jeff tell you guys to do this?” Gidley needled Sciutto, alleging that CNN president Jeff Zucker was in Sciutto’s ear.
The seemingly endless segment came to an end when Gidley objected to the media questioning the president’s health while simultaneously speculating about Joe Biden’s mental acuity.
“No one has more strength than Donald Trump,” Gidley boasted. “No one can keep up with him. Yes, he’s got the best message and yes, he’s got the best record. He’s got the best work ethic. My goodness, Joe Biden has been in a basement with his feet kicked up for the last several months.”
“How many times on the golf course, Hogan?” Sciutto fired back. “Come on.”