“Oh, we’ll be cutting.”
Those four words—spoken in response to a question about entitlements during a Fox News town hall on Thursday—are likely to haunt President Donald Trump for the rest of his re-election campaign.
But don’t worry, Kellyanne Conway said Friday morning on Fox News, the president didn’t actually say what you heard him say.
Fox News host Ed Henry brought those comments, referring to them as something Trump “seems to be trying to clean up this morning,” during the White House counselor’s latest appearance on the network.
“Kellyanne, the president this morning promising he’ll protect Social Security and Medicare,” Henry said. “You were there at that town hall, he said the opposite. He said that he, in a second term, would cut Social Security and Medicare and he would cut entitlement programs. Why did he say that?”
“He didn’t say that,” Conway replied with a straight face. “You’re misquoting him, respectfully.” She went on to explain that when she brought up the reaction to the comments with Trump directly, he told her, “No, I’m talking about cutting deficits.”
Henry could have let it go at that, but instead he played the video clip of the moment, which clearly contradicts that explanation.
At the town hall, Fox host Martha MacCallum told the president, “If you don’t cut something in entitlements, you’ll never really deal with the debt.”
“Oh, we’ll be cutting,” Trump said in response. “But we’re also going to have growth like you’ve never had before.”
“So Martha MacCallum said right there, but you’re going to have cut entitlements to cut the deficit and he said, ‘We’ll be cutting,’” Henry said after the clip finished.
And yet, in the face of video evidence, Conway maintained her spin. “But that wasn’t what he was talking about, he wasn’t talking about cutting entitlements,” she insisted, pointing to a statement from Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham that similarly tried to clean up those comments.
She then deftly pivoted to blaming President Barack Obama, and the show moved on to the coronavirus.
But despite Conway’s misleading protestations, Trump’s words have already become a major issue in the 2020 presidential campaign with both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders tweeting their respective vows to protect entitlements on Thursday evening.
Now, The Daily Beast has learned that American Bridge 21st Century will become the first Democratic Super PAC to use the clip against Trump, launching a five-figure digital ad buy highlighting the president’s “promise” to cut entitlements and targeting to older voters in counties surrounding Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the town hall took place.
“We want to ensure that local voters who didn’t catch Trump’s town hall see Trump’s most important answer of the night and know what’s in store for a second Trump term—cuts to Social Security and Medicare,” American Bridge President Bradley Beychok said in a statement. “This made-for-TV moment exposed Trump for who he really is—someone willing to play with seniors’ lives.”