It looks like we now know how Team Trump will handle the fallout over President Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists at Tuesday’s debate: Say Trump actually did condemn white supremacy multiple times.
Trump campaign spokesperson Hogan Gidley showed up on CNN’s New Day on Wednesday morning in an attempt to spin the president’s disastrous and chaotic performance, which even his own supporters conceded was “too hot” while likening the president to a “feral animal.”
While news anchors and analysts trashed the entire debate, calling it a “hot mess” and a “shitshow,” much of the media’s attention has been focused on the president outright refusing to disavow far-right extremism and white nationalism when confronted by debate moderator Chris Wallace. Even Trump’s favorite morning show Fox & Friends said that Trump “blew the biggest layup in the history of debates.”
During their interview, CNN anchor John Berman immediately confronted Gidley with that debate moment, noting that the president also told far-right group Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”—something the violent extremist organization has celebrated and embraced on social media.
“When the president asked them last night to stand by, what does he want them to stand by for?” Berman wondered aloud.
“He wants them to get out of the way,” Gidley insisted. “He wants them to not do the things they say they want to do. This is a reprehensible group. The president in the clip you just played, when asked by Chris Wallace if he would condemn the groups, he said sure. He said it many times, not just last night, in the past as well.”
The CNN host pointed out that Gidley went “10,000 times further than the president did last night,” adding that Trump didn’t call the Proud Boys reprehensible and that the group has rallied behind Trump’s “stand by” order. He then asked Gidley if he personally condemns the Proud Boys.
“I absolutely do, but it doesn’t matter what I do,” the Trump flack replied. “I’m not running for president of the United States. The president does and he did call them out. He has condemned them.”
“He didn’t call them out last night,” Berman shouted back. “He didn’t call them out last night!”
Gidley, however, insisted that Trump actually disavowed white supremacists “three times” during the debate, referencing when Trump said “sure” after Wallace asked if he was willing to “condemn white supremacists and militia groups.”
“One way you can do it, Hogan, is say I condemn them,” Berman quickly pushed back. “So what Chris Wallace did in this exchange, he said, ‘Will you condemn them?’ And the president said, ‘Yes, I will.’ Then Wallace said, “OK, then do it.’ And then the president didn’t.”
The Trump spokesperson, despite the remedial explanation from Berman, reiterated that the president “did it three times,” prompting Berman to cut in and call for the control room to replay the clip of Wallace and Trump from the debate.
The segment, meanwhile, soon devolved into a shoutfest as the Trump spokesperson emulated his boss from the debate and repeatedly interrupted Berman while refusing to answer his questions. The interview completely went off the rails when Gidley invoked Charlottesville.
“In fact, the predicate for Joe Biden running for the race is the Charlottesville conversation which Joe Biden knows is a lie,” Gidley exclaimed, causing Berman to shoot back, “What’s the lie about it?”
Gidley embraced Trumpworld’s revisionist history over Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” remarks after a white supremacist killed one person and injured many others in Charlottesville, insisting that Trump didn’t equivocate when it came to white nationalists.
Eventually, as Gidley tried to steamroll Berman while portraying Biden as a racist, Berman attempted to interject and remind Gidley that this wasn’t Tuesday’s debate and the Trump spokesman will “talk when I ask a question.”
The former White House deputy press secretary then provided the perfect coda to the trainwreck segment.
“That’s not the way it works! I’ll talk when I want to talk,” Gidley huffed.